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Shaky Foundations and Deadly Off-ramps, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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January 22, 2024 9:00 am

Shaky Foundations and Deadly Off-ramps, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 22, 2024 9:00 am

Unfortunately, trials can present us with the temptation to sin, rather than wait on God. Pastor J.D. Greear shows us how, in the face of such temptation, we can either embrace the truth that every good gift comes from God—or we can turn to other things for comfort and peace.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Take sin seriously. You got to kill it at the desire stage because if you don't, it's going to grow to the point that it takes you over. It forms habits in you. The ways you relate to or think about the opposite sex. What you do when you're upset or you're angry. How you see people who are in competition with you. Those desires grow and grow until they consume you.

Until they become you. Happy Monday and thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today we're continuing our teaching from the book of James called Shaky Foundations and Deadly Off-Ramps. If you missed the beginning of our journey through James, remember you can catch up anytime at You know, the unfortunate thing about the trials of life is that they often present us with the temptation to sin rather than rely on God. Today, Pastor J.D. Greer shows us how in the face of such temptation, we can either embrace the truth that every good gift comes from God or we can turn to other things for comfort and peace. What will you choose? Where will you build your foundation? Let's open our Bibles to James chapter one and join Pastor J.D.

now. God's only ever been leading you toward goodness. Never has he been leading you towards sin.

Anytime you look to him, you're going to find only goodness and truth and help and love. Well then, you ask, where does my sin come from? In verse 14, James is going to give you the anatomy of a sin.

Check it out. Verse 14, each person, he says, is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Look at that. Sin always starts within you. It's never the devil. It's not your ex-husband. It's not your kids.

It's not your boss. You sin when you are lured away by your own desire. A lot of people in a trial want to start blaming their sin on the trial itself. Well, the way I got treated in my divorce made me a really mean and vengeful person. I wouldn't have stolen. I wouldn't have cheated unless I'd been wrong this way.

James says, yeah, you may indeed have been wronged. But all the situation did was provide an opportunity for the bad parts of you to come out. That divorce, that quarrel with that friend, that overbearing boss, those did not make you the way that you are. Those situations just gave an opportunity for those parts of you to come out.

We don't want what's inside of our heart to come out and embarrass us for y'all, but just because we don't verbalize something doesn't mean it isn't in there. The real unfiltered us is a swirl of toxic desires. The other way I've told you to think about this is to consider this. What if there was a little monitor on the side of your head that displayed for everybody what you were thinking at any given moment? How many of you would have any friends at the end of the day?

Anybody? Sin, James says, comes from wayward and distorted desires in us. And until you embrace that, you're never really going to confess your sin and you're never going to do this radical soul work in order to get it out. Then desire, then desire, he says, when it's conceived, he gives birth to sin. Desire grows in you until it finds an opportunity for expression, a way that you can express it and get away with it. And then sin, when it is fully grown and it's turned into a habit or a lifestyle or an addiction, that brings forth death.

Let me just map that out. Here's what James is saying. Sin starts small as a desire, starts deep in our hearts, but as it grows, it gets stronger and stronger. And stronger desires become ingrained ways of thinking. Ingrained ways of thinking become habits. Habits become addictions and life trajectories. And that leads to spiritual death. Now there's so much that I want to say here, but let me limit myself to just a few observations. Number one, sin is the satanic off-ramp offered to us in a trial.

This is the opposite of remaining steadfast. You lose your confidence in God, and you turn to something else to give you the comfort and peace that you should be getting from God. It's like the children of Israel in Exodus 32, when Moses got delayed up on the mountain with God.

They concluded that God had forgot about them, so they made a golden calf to replace God, and then they had a giant orgy in front of it. Now that is really graphic, but it demonstrates what happens when you take the off-ramp in a trial. Satan almost always offers some fleshly comfort as a substitute for trust in an invisible absent God. Here's a sensual pleasure. Here's a creature comfort. Here's a compromise.

Here's a way to maintain control. Here's alcohol. Here's sex. Here's materialism.

Here's shopping. Here's manipulation. The bottom line is that God is not enough for you. You cannot wait in faith for him. You need something now, because your soul is not feasting at the table of faith. Your soul is not the table of his presence. It's starving, and a starving soul is always going to look for something to eat, and the something to eat that you were given is the pleasures of sin.

You know, listen, this is really important. Every sin you commit this way, alcoholism, drugs, sensuality, materialism, whatever, all the sin you commit this way begins with unbelief this way. It's like Martin Luther always said, every sin begins with an evil heart of unbelief. Before you express sin this way, anger, rage, stealing, lust, adultery, whatever, you express doubt and unbelief this way. That's number one.

This is the satanic off-ramp. Number two, sin leads to death. The indulging of those desires, the worship of that golden calf, y'all, it feels so right. It feels so satisfying in the moment. It feels so necessary, so justifiable, so natural, but it leads to destruction. Your enemy is using your wayward desires to lead you to death.

Some of you have heard me tell this before, and it is a little graphic, but it gets the point across. It's the way they kill a wolf up in Alaska. Wolves are a nuisance. They're a pest up there.

They'll kill household pets and kill farm animals. So what they do up there is they take a knife, a really sharp two-edged knife, and they dip it in seal's blood, let it freeze, do it again until it's layered. Now it's like a blood popsicle stick, and then they bury that really sharp knife up to the edge of the handle so it's only the blade that's now covered by blood that's sticking out of the snow. Wolf comes along, gets a scent of that seal's blood. Oh, he loves him some seal's blood, drives him bananas, and so what's he do? He goes over. He starts to lick it. Starts to lick it. Starts to lick through that blood popsicle stick until he gets down to the blade of the knife, but by this point, his tongue is numb, and he begins to shred his own tongue into ribbons, not realizing that the blood now pooled on the ground below the little popsicle stick is no longer the seal's blood, it's his blood.

And then the wolf just goes somewhere and dies because he's cut himself to pieces because of his desire for seal's blood. That's what sin does to us. It lures us by our desires to the destruction of our soul. Satan's attacks on you are rarely scary.

They're almost always beautiful. It's what all those movies about Satan get wrong. It's not scary. You're in the presence of Satan, it's not gonna feel scary.

It's gonna feel beautiful. Let me illustrate this from my own life. I'm gonna go back several years, but in my late 20s, I served as a missionary over in Southeast Asia. Without going deep into the story, there was a terrible situation we got into over there where some friends of mine lived about 10 minutes north of me. They kind of got caught for what they were doing, passing out Bibles. There was a mob that attacked them.

They burned their cars to the ground. My friends got put into prison. There was another guy up there who was a national, so he sort of blended into the crowd. They didn't take him captive. He had a little thing in his pocket. He recorded this mob that was crying out for the death of my friends.

He actually played it for me later. I'm telling you, I'm not trying to be real superstitious, it sounded satanic. Here is this mob calling out for the death of my friends.

It was like our enemy raging against the spread of the gospel. Shortly after that, because I'd been under house arrest during the time when I was allowed to travel again, I went down. I needed a little R&R, so I went down to one of the bigger cities, checked into this international hotel. I was so exhausted.

I was just tired, and I was afraid. I'll check into this hotel, and they always take your passport over there, international hotel. I take my passport and I slide it across the table to this hotel attendant, very attractive girl. She reaches across the thing. She grabs, not the passport, she grabs my hand. She says, is there anything else you want me to hold for you this evening? I look up at her, just kind of startled, and the most beautiful eyes are looking back at me.

And it's very, very clear what she is asking. And I'm telling you, everything in me is just like, yes, this is what I want. When all of a sudden, and I think it's probably because I had people praying for me, it was like the Holy Spirit just opened my eyes to see that that same vicious voice that I'd heard in that recording of those people wanting to kill my friends, that was the same thing that was at work right in front of me, that my enemy had destruction on his mind. And he'll either choose death, or he'll choose self-death by indulging those desires. Make no mistake about it, sin feels attractive, but it leads to death.

Here's number three. The longer sin grows, the harder it becomes to kill. You see what James says? It starts as a desire. Then it turns into an action, which turns into a habit, which turns into an addiction, that turns into a life trajectory. And the point is, the farther you go down that road, the harder the pattern is to break. Means you got to kill sin while it's young. You may think that wayward desire, you may think that fantasy is not harming you, as long as you keep it under control, and you only indulge it when there's no real consequence. But see, whether anybody is around to see it or not, whether it affects anybody or not, its roots are spreading throughout your soul in a way that makes it increasingly difficult to eradicate.

Right now, I'm reading a book with my 13-year-old son called Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle. J.C. Ryle was another British pastor in the 1800s. Pastor Ryle says, and I quote, Habits are like trees. They are strengthened by age.

A boy may bend an oak when it's a sapling, but a hundred men cannot root it up when it's a full-grown tree. Take sin seriously. You got to kill it at the desire stage, because if you don't, it's going to grow to the point that it takes you over. It forms habits in you. The ways you relate to or think about the opposite sex, those don't come out of nowhere.

That's cultivated over a lifetime. What happens is, what you do when you're upset or you're angry, how you see people who are in competition with you, those desires grow and grow until they consume you, until they become you. It's like another British Puritan, John Owen says, you got to be killing sin or it will be killing you.

Only one of two things has happened. You're killing it or it's killing you. Arrest your thoughts. Stop watching that movie. Get out of the house. Call other people and confess your sin.

Sometimes what you most need is just community. Many of you have sin in your life that you're playing with. It doesn't seem that bad to you. Lust, laziness, gossip, judgmentalism, self-righteousness, bitterness, hatred, racism, but it feels contained. It feels harmless. It's just in your head and you filter it. I'm telling you, it's not going to stay that way.

It never does. Desire grows until it takes over your heart, at which point you couldn't contain it if you wanted to. It's like every once in a while, we see some story on the news. Florida man, mauled by pet cougar. I don't know what it is about people in Florida, but they do this kind of stuff. And you read the story and you find out that this guy, I mean, I'm a sucker for this clickbait, just so you know.

I see it on my scroll. I'm like, oh, I've got to read that one. And I click it and I find out that some guy in Florida had a pet cougar named Fluffy. And Fluffy snapped one day and bit his arm off.

And then everybody they interview, everybody in the neighborhood always acts so surprised. Oh, I mean, Fluffy was always so gentle and sweet. And I'm like, Fluffy is a predator. Always was, always will be. That's Fluffy's nature. And if you keep a pet cougar in your house, at some point, you're going to get your arm bitten off. Sin's a predator.

It will destroy you. This is Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. Learn more about this ministry anytime by visiting We'll return to our teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about our new featured resource this month. No matter how well we know God, we could all use a fresh start and a solid foundation. Like we're learning about today on the program. That's why we have to keep putting the Word of God into our hearts so that when life cuts us, when we desperately need His wisdom, we bleed the Word of God. The Lord calls us to take a step of faith in another than another. And the only way to walk and step with Him fully is to actually know Him. So we've put together a pack of 52 memory verse cards to help you not only carry God's promises in your heart, but be able to share them with others. Memorizing scripture is an important first step in not just knowing stuff about God, but truly embracing Him and His promises in our life. This set of cards comes with your generous gift to the ministry right now.

So give us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out at Now let's get back to the conclusion of today's teaching on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD. See, that leads me to number four, and this is equally important. Number four, Satan is in the desire cultivation business. Your enemy's main tactic is not always to directly attack you. Sometimes he's just quietly and subtly cultivating sinful desires in you, reinforcing them.

It's just quiet, subtle until they become second nature and you can't escape them. I learned something recently about how ranchers cultivate beef cows. What they found is that high stress levels in cows make them release hormones that significantly downgrade the quality of the meat. It means if you go to a nice steakhouse, you are being served the remains of a very relaxed cow who lived a totally stress-free life. You go into a waffle house and you order that T-bone, you're looking at a cow that was a nervous wreck.

Bittiest fingernails all day long or whatever. So the point of this article was modern ranchers do all that they can to keep cows calm now. It's totally unlike what you see in the movies. Workers don't yell at them, cowboys aren't out chasing them, rounding them up with dogs. They never, ever, ever use cattle prods anymore because they found that if you just keep cows contented and comfortable, cows will go wherever you lead them. Fattened up, happy, satisfied, straight to the slaughterhouse. Here's what Russ Moore says, sometimes the Bible uses the language of predator and prey to describe the relationship between tempter and tempted.

But often, the scripture speaks of temptation in the language of rancher and livestock. You're not just being tracked down, friend, you are also being cultivated. So here's the question, where is Satan grooming you right now? Where's Satan cultivating you? Is it through materialism? You find yourself taking more delight in things than you do people?

You find your generosity slowly trending downward? Maybe it's through lust, pornography, mental fantasies, flirtatious relationships. You indulge in books or movies that allow you to experience sexual pleasures vicariously that let desires grow and become oak trees of mental habit in you. Maybe it's in bitterness and anger and gossip. You find yourself thinking mean and hateful thoughts about people a lot. Or how about this, is this what you enjoy talking most about with your spouse or your daughter or your friends? What you love most talking about is what's wrong with other people.

You love talking about what's wrong with who and I can't believe so and so did this. You ever thought about the fact that you can gossip with your spouse? You can gossip with your daughter? Seems like a lot of mothers seem to cultivate gossip in their daughters in the name of building relationship. Tell me what's wrong with all your friends. You want to have good communication, yes, but don't cultivate gossip.

That does not end well for her. Gossip is gossip no matter who you say it to. Do you even know how to identify gossip? Or maybe it's rage. When you're by yourself, do you cuss and hit stuff?

You say, I'm not bothering anybody. Yeah, but that desire is growing and growing and it will find expression. How about alcoholism? Maybe that's becoming the thing that takes the edge off every day. It's the only way you can deal with life.

And maybe it's not alcoholism yet, but if you're honest, it's headed there, which is why you're always hiding it from your spouse, why you don't want them to see how much you drink. Be killing sin or it will be killing you. Attack it in the desire stage. Do serious work in confessing it. One thing that I do in relation to this, I actually got it from John Mark Comer when he was here.

It's called counter-talking prayer. You actually, I have a little file on my folder. I actually use Evernote. And in it, I actually have written out different cards, the most tempting temptations to me.

There's probably a dozen of them in there. And what I'll do is I actually try to write out and verbalize the very form the desire or the lie takes in my mind. And then I've written out scriptures to counteract that lie that I've memorized.

And I'll go through these once a week or so. For example, I have one called the pursuit of riches. The pursuit of riches here's how the lie sounds in my heart. An abundance of money is the good life. So don't give it away. Or better, give only enough that you can feel good about it.

Brag to the church about how much you give and look good before others, but don't give in a way that threatens a future of material comfort. That's what the desire, that's the form it takes in my head. So I've counteracted that with Jesus's counsel, Matthew 619, lay it out for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust are corrupt, but instead lay up treasures in heaven. Here's one, anger toward others. When I'm tempted to be angry, it's almost always takes this form.

You have a right to be angry and to despise or look down on whoever. The verse that I use when that temptation comes in my head is forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. I'm never gonna, nobody's ever gonna fail me more than I failed you, God. I've got them written out for sexual temptation, for doubt, for everything else that I struggle with. Whether you use that exact thing or not, here's my point, take sin seriously and do serious, radical work in confessing and getting rid of it.

Find somebody today and make yourself accountable to them. Y'all, let's return one more time to James' theme, verse 12. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life. It's God's promise. He will receive the crown of life. It's God's promise to those who love him. Be steadfast, James says.

He uses battle and athletic competition imagery. So let me lead us toward closing with this. I've read a number of Navy SEAL books, not because I'm thinking of becoming one one day.

I mean, at 35 years old now, sadly, that ship is sailed for me, okay? But I am always fascinated by the stories of hell week. To become a SEAL, you gotta make it through this whole six month training course. And the hardest week of the six months is the third week called hell week. Five and a half days of one week where you get almost no sleep.

In five days, five and a half days, you'll run over 200 miles for up to eight miles at a time. A team of six soldiers will have to carry their boat over their heads as they hike together through mud and slog uphill. Often you do this wet and cold and covered inside and out on your clothes with sand because they've made you roll around on the beach before you did it. I was reading the account of one SEAL who said that because his team came in last, they had to do nonstop cycles of five pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and then 15 air squats for six hours straight.

Sometimes at night, when the temperature will drop down to the low 40s, they will make them stand neck deep in the cold ocean for over an hour. Now here's the thing, and you've heard this, at any point, at any point, one of these guys can choose to quit by simply coming up to a bell and ringing it, at which point you are treated to hot coffee and warm donuts and a nice bed. But you're out. Yet for those who remain steadfast to the end, they have the great honor of becoming a Navy SEAL. Now I realize that not many of you are going to become SEALs, but James uses imagery like this to urge you to press on. Steadfast, remain steadfast, he says.

Under trial, keep running the race, don't ring that bell. Because see, God has got something amazing for you at the end. Remember that journal I read to you from last week? You can see it through the mud, the sun, there it is. God is waiting for you at the finish line, and what you're going to be there is going to be stronger, more beautiful, more full of joy, and more full of God than you could ever imagine. The point is, hold on and don't give up.

Suffering is not forever. God is up to something good. You say, but yeah, pastor, there's a reason I'm not a Navy SEAL. I just don't have that kind of stuff in me.

Here's the good news. Listen, the reason you and I can be steadfast with him is because he was steadfast with us and is steadfast with us. Because God demonstrated his love for us and that while I was still a sinner and an enemy, Christ died for me. And then of his own will, he brought me forth by the word of truth that I should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. He didn't choose me because of my righteousness, which means he's not going to give up on me because of my unrighteousness.

He's the father of lights in whom there is no shadow of turning. And so I'm convinced that the one who began a good work in me is going to complete it under the day of Jesus Christ. I can remain steadfast to him because I know he's steadfast with me. So what is your foundation for life? Are you anchored to the goodness of God?

An important takeaway from today's teaching here on Summit Life. Would you agree that we need a weapon to keep us from falling prey to the enemy, especially when we face the trials of life? After all, Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for people to destroy every moment of every day.

So what is that most valuable weapon? Well, of course, it's the word of God. That's why we have to keep putting it into our hearts so that when difficult times come, we can recall his promises and rely on God for the victory. This month, we've put together a pack of 52 memory verse cards for you to use as a daily weapon. And these cards make it easier to memorize scripture.

You don't need to go find something on your own. It's right at your fingertips for quick reference. We'll send you the scripture memory card set as an expression of thanks when you donate $35 or more today to support Summit Life. We're always thankful for our partners in this ministry, those who give one time, as well as those who commit to a regular monthly gift. So thank you in advance for your support of this mission.

Ask for your set of memory verse cards when you give today by calling 866-335-5220, or you can give online at I'm Molly Vidovitch, and I'm so glad that you joined us today. Come back tomorrow as we continue this teaching series through the book of James. Listen Tuesday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-22 12:15:41 / 2024-01-22 12:26:12 / 11

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