Temptations / Spiritual Warfare
This spring I really discovered a love for cookies –not just the ones you make at home, but the ones from Cookie Society. It’s incredible how they can make a cookie unbelievably good. A few months ago they had a cookie that was an imitation strawberry Poptart. I mean, come on. It was incredible. Or even the kitchen sink cookie from Panera – wowza. I just love them.
In my home, I try not to keep a lot of junk food around – if there isn’t junk food, I’m totally fine but man, when I drive by cookie society or walk in to get a salad from Panera, it’s just so hard not to slip in and get one. Nothing wrong with cookies… but there is something wrong with how often I want to spend $5 on a cookie. I don’t know if it’s worse for my budget or for my health…probably both.
But out of sight, out of mind, is how the saying goes, right? But around Frisco, it’s hard to drive anywhere without passing some sort of gourmet dessert place. I mean Crumbl is in our town now?? They were giving out free cookies the other day. There are a million froyo places, or Nothing Bundt Cakes.
Temptations are everywhere. Physically, with so many eating places – if I’m trying to eat healthy or keep to a budget, it’s so tempting to just hit up Ernestos when I could make fajitas at home way cheaper. But also, spiritually there are temptations everywhere.
I’ve been studying an encounter Jesus has with a man that I’ve probably read many times, but for some reason in this season it has stuck with me. Through studying Mark 7, I’ve learned what it means to fix our eyes on Jesus even when there’s temptations in the world.
Blog or Bible Study, you didn’t know what you were clicking on today, but you’re welcome!
By Mark 7, Jesus has been teaching, healing, traveling all over Israel to see different people. By this point he had offended the Jewish religious system enough that the Jews were ready to find a way to get him out of the picture. He’s on the coast in the region of Tyre, heads up to Sidon and then goes to the Sea of Galilee. So kinda a weird route. But he is headed to the Decapolis area that borders the sea of Galilee. Doesn’t go into Galilee probably because the Jewish elite are ready to kill him. The Decapolis is a region made up of 10 cities, a lot of trade happens in the Decapolis area. It’s a higher economic area than some others that Jesus visits. It’s made up of mostly Gentiles – non-Jews. Anytime Jesus does ministry in the Decapolis it shows his love for the gentiles. Which just goes to show that Jesus came for all people. As someone who wasn’t in the “in crowd” all growing up, I always love when we see Jesus ministering to non-Jews or to the outcasts. He cares about all people. He came for all of us.
Mark 7:31-37 says this: 31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha! (EH-FA-THA)” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it.
37 They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
I love so much about this. It’s the second or third time we see a group of people concerned for their friend being healed. (Remember the guy lowered through roof or the parents begging Jesus to heal their children?).
So this man was brought – so many times others bring people to Jesus – they bring other people’s needs to Jesus’ attention. It makes me wonder, were they missing their own needs? Were they so focused on this guy’s deafness that they might have missed their own spiritual need for Jesus? But also the fact that they went out of their way to bring this man to Jesus. How often do we go out of our own convenience so that someone else can encounter Jesus? Not only went out of their way, but begged Jesus to help him.
I think it’s cool that Jesus takes this man aside. A lot of Jesus’ miracles were done in public with lots of people around. But in this area, crowds usually gathered for magicians and street performers. So crowds also gathered around Jesus. The crowd would have preferred to see Jesus heal – as if he were a street performer. But Jesus saves this man the spectacle, while also more personally dealing with him. Mark often emphasizes Jesus’ desire to have personal contact with the people he heals. Jesus heals the man privately, but some disciples and the man’s friends were there – our relationship with Jesus is personal, not just private. Not meant to be done in isolation.
After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. This is gross to me. What?! But how cool that it’s Jesus’ own fingers, His own spit that heals. Jesus alone heals! I’m not sure what’s going on in your life, but know this – Jesus heals! He has the power to heal any hurt, relationship, fear. His healing is perfect even when it doesn’t make sense to us all the time.
He makes all things New. he creates order out of chaos. Water represents chaos and evil in the Bible. So for God’s Spirit to hover over the water – he is creating order, he is keeping evil at bay. When Jesus walks on water, calms the storm, he is the One who orders chaos. which could be why he spit – using his breath to order the chaos.
What happens to this guy? His ENTIRE world changes. He can hear birds for the first time. He can hear the laughter of his friends. His ears are opened to the sound of Jesus’ voice first. That’s wild! When this man encountered Jesus, everything changed. He could speak. He could hear.
Jesus alone can heal.
How does he heal us? First, he heals our relationship with God. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to God the Father except through Him. And so, regardless of any physical healing, that’s good news. Its’ the best news.
Jesus’ breath breathes life into our dead lives. Without Jesus we are nothing. But praise be to Him who breathes life into us and gives us hope.
2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus, perfect, holy, fully God and fully man – took on our sin. He took that which we deserve (the wages of sin is death) all of it. Everything you’ve done. Everything you’ll ever do. And his righteousness was recognized in our place, credited back to Him. And in Him, we too may have the righteousness of God. Fully forgiven, fully accepted. We can approach the throne confidently. Because we are sealed in Christ.
But what’s more? He didn’t just heal us from death – praise God He did. That would be enough! We could have a crappy life knowing that we are sealed in Jesus and the Gospel would be enough. But Jesus steps in and heals our lives. Our whole selves. He wants abundant life for us.
He heals our relationships. He heals us from our sin. He heals us from insecurities. From our past trauma. From maybe that unhealthy dating relationship. From the secrets that you keep. He heals the fight you just had with your best friend – even if it was simple and dumb – Jesus wants to step in.
Jesus heals all things.
Andy maybe you’ve heard this so much. I have. I grew up in church, have worked in churches for so long. But let me tell you. Jesus has healed my life. He has healed my relationship with my friends. He has healed the hurt over some family drama, and although it isn’t fixed, he’s healed my outlook and the moments when I try to control things. He’s healed my pride – and is continually healing my pride. He’s healed so many insecurities. He’s healed my heart when grief from losing family members is so hard. There are times when my life looks weird because of being in ministry. it’s easy to compare it to the rest of the world. Friendships are different because of it. And it’s easy to let doubt slip in – doubt about God’s faithfulness and whether or not some promises or hopes will ever come true. Let me tell ya, JESUS HEALS. When he breathes life into your life, it may not be what you expected, it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s so cool to walk with Him. Life with Jesus is better!
And no matter how many times I hear it, The gospel is still enough for us. The gospel gives us hope. Jesus’ healing comforts. It brings joy. There’s no way that this deaf man and his friends weren’t joyful about this healing. Jesus’ disciples probably never got tired of seeing the freedom that comes when someone encountered Jesus.
Guess what: We don’t have to walk around wounded after Jesus heals. We are free, new. we get to approach trials with confidence. Because the same spirit that rose Jesus from the grave lives in us!
They way that Jesus speaks to the man is what stood out to me. Jesus looks up to heaven and “Sighed deeply.”
Why did he sigh deeply?
Typically when we sigh it’s not really positive. When our kids need to clean their room for the thousandth time, *sigh*. Your boss gives you a last minute assignment right before the weekend, *sigh*. For our students, when homework is long or hard, or you’re waiting for homeboy to text you back. *Sigh*
Was it exasperation? Excited? Exhausted? Impatience? Was He tired of healing people?
I’ve been reading through the gospels in chronological order and one thing I’ve noticed is how much Jesus does. He’s always with people – teaching, healing, walking on water. Crowds follow him. He gets away but if I were Jesus – thank goodness I’m not – I’d get sick of people. I’d be like “Another one”. But Jesus is patient, and perfect, and kind. I’m not. Sometimes I have patience and kindness, but not that much.
Jesus doesn’t get sick of loving people.
So why does he sigh deeply? I started looking at commentaries and asking questions. Here’s what I learned. That word is Stenazo in Greek – it’s used a few more times in the NT, but only here by Jesus. Usually when I found out that kind of stuff it stands out to me. This word means to sigh, groan with grief, groan within our souls, pray inaudibly. Expresses strong emotion. It reveals Jesus’ grief over sin and sickness in a world devastated by the Fall, by sin. He sighs a prayer toward heaven – be opened.
He sighs over the wreck that sin had brought about – the malice of the devil in deforming the good features of God’s original creation. One commentary, which I found interesting – said that Jesus sighed, not because he couldn’t stand showing this man kindness or hesitant to heal, but because of his pity for the miseries of human life.
He also could have sighed because he knew the many temptations that this man would be exposed to and in danger of.
Think about it: This man wasn’t sinless, but was a lot more innocent from temptations that come with hearing and speaking. How often do we get in trouble because of what we say? Or what we think we hear? How much less drama would there be if we didn’t assume we heard that person talking about that other person and then rushed to tell them about it? Or the mean words, the cuss words, the rude tone we use with others?
Growing up, my mom had a knack for walking in right as the tv show we were watching said the one cuss word, or the one make out scene. We’d be watching something pretty innocent and she would always walk in on that one word. And then proceed to freak out with, “what are you watching!”
But all it takes is hearing or seeing something once to get it in our heads and hearts.
My mom would then follow up with a slight reminder to “be careful little eyes what you see.” She would sing it all the time – oh be careful little eyes what you see, little ears what you hear, for the Father up above is looking on with love, oh be careful little eyes what you see…
Temptations are everywhere. [remember how I can’t get away from cookie places in Frisco?] Sin and temptations are even worse. We live in a sinful, fallen world.
Mark 7:20-23: Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
James 1:13-5: No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”
Temptations are sinful. But they lead to sin. And Scripture tells us in Romans that all sin leads to death. So seeing a make-out scene isn’t sinful. But then what happens? It gets in our head, and can lead down a road to temptation and eventually, if we’re not careful, we find ourself acting on our temptations. That’s when the sin comes in.
So even Jesus promises that we’ll have temptations.
They sneak in, it’s subtle. I didn’t start noticing all the cookie places until a friend told me about them. I had a friend mention cookie society, so I thought to check them out. And then they started popping up on Instagram (because that ad algorithm is a real thing). I don’t even follow them.
But sin is sneaky.
1 Peter 5.8 says, “8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.
Spiritual warfare is real, we have a real enemy that wants nothing more than to get you away from a personal relationship with Jesus. And that doesn’t always look like salvation – he would rather you be numb and floating along than either hot or cold. It’s when we’re alone, tired, our defenses are down. That’s when it’s easiest to lie to our friend or watch that thing we shouldn’t or gossip. 1 peter says Be alert! Keep your guard up.
Jesus sighs because He knows what awaits this man. He knows the enemy He is fighting.
2 Corinthians 10.3-5 3 For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, 4 since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
But! We have good news: Jesus says in the rest of John 10.10, “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” We can have confidence in the fact that Jesus wins! He is for us. He has already fought the battle and won because of the Cross.
So, what do we do with this; what do we do with temptations?
Some truths to hang on to:
Life and death are fiercely competing for our devotion.
The devil’s work is diabolical (diabolical means disgraceful, awful, evil) – example: arrogance, prejudice, pride, anger – not things of God.
We don’t have to play with the devil. We don’t have to play with sin. God has given us everything we need to overcome the Enemy’s schemes. We are more than conquerors.
Satan wants to destroy through intimidation and isolation – 1 Peter 5.8 – remember, the enemy prowls around.
God is the source of all good; Satan is the author of evil, father of lies.
Battle is real – Galatians 5.17 – for the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
So What do we do with this? I have Good News:
Jesus has already defeated Satan – Colossians 2.15 – “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in Him.”
Our identity is in Jesus – who loves us and has sacrificed for us – Romans 8.37 – “in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
We are more than conquerors! Here are some verses that hopefully are encouraging: 1 Corinthians 10.13: No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.. 1 Peter 5:9-11: 9 Resist him (the enemy), stand firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. 10 The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen.
When temptations come, we must be sober-minded. Put up our guards.
The deaf guy had it (sort of) easy, he could just cover his ears, keep his mouth shut. I’m sure he dealt with plenty of frustrations. But sometimes I need someone to just clamp my mouth shut. It gets me in trouble.
So what do we do when temptations come?
Pray intensely and strategically – Ephesians 6.18; 1 Thess. 5.8 (pray continually)
Turn to Jesus; keep our eyes fixed on Him. Galatians 5.16 says to keep in step with the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. We’ve got to commit to Jesus.
Stay in the Word – fill our eyes and ears and heart with the things of God, not the things of this world. [Psalm 119.11 – I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.] The more we’re in Scripture, the more we know God’s voice – and we’ll recognize what is temptation and what is of God. We can’t become more like Jesus if we don’t know Him – and the best way to get to know him is through his word.
Remove yourself from the situation. I can’t keep games on my -phone. I’ll fall into a deep hole and its not good for me. So I put safeguards up – no games on the phone. If you know you struggle with something, remove yourself from that situation. If your people around you cuss a lot and you don’t want to do that (let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth) – then maybe its not best to be around those people all the time. Or to watch that show that gets these temptations in your mind.
Set your boundaries early. Before you start dating, set your personal boundaries. Before you hang out with your friends, resolve to live like God wants. When you know what it is that you stand for, How God wants you to live, and when you resolve to live that way before you’re in a situation, it’s easier to resist temptation.
Assess where you’re at. Reflect, recognize when you’re walking with God and when you’re not. Identify when you’re in sin.
Team up. Small group is the most important thing we do because we need people. Let people in your life and hold one another accountable.
Give your temptations to the Lord. It’s one thing to recognize your temptations, but we’ve got to lay them down at Jesus’ feet. Release them, ask for forgiveness, and know that God is faithful and will be your ever-present help.
We become desensitized to it all. And what goes in our ears, eyes, heart, will come out. Jesus says we’re to be the light of the world. A good way to dim that light is to look like the world. Jesus came to free us from the bondage that the world offers – and free our tongue to speak of his praise.
So Jesus sighs, prays, and the man is healed! Healing comes from Jesus. Healing from our temptations and sins. Healing from our hurts and struggles.
Jesus promises that we’ll have struggles. But it’s what we do with them that’s important. We get to have hope that Jesus has overcome the world! So, in opening the ears, the tongue, he also opens the eyes and ears of the disciples. Not only that, but Jesus opens the hearts of His people. He opens ears to Hear his word, eyes to see who he truly is, tongues to proclaim his Gospel, and hearts to receive Him. So that they can proclaim, “He does all things well!”
Whatever you’re waiting on – he does all things well. He orders your days well; He spends the waiting time well.
Whatever is hurting – He does things well. He makes all things new.
Whatever is confusing – we can trust that God does all things well.
He heals all things, and whether that’s in our timing or the way we imagine it or not, we can know that God does all things well. He heals all things and can redeem all things. So when we’re faced with temptation, we can trust that God’s way is better and sigh with expectation that Jesus is coming back and we are His creation.
Jesus is our healer. The lifter of our heads and encouragement for our souls
My hope is that we can be so focused on Jesus that we stand firm in our faith, firm against temptations. And that we can release them to Him. There’s no better place to be than in a place of surrender.