I’m back from a four-day planning getaway and for me, there’s nothing better than vision-casting and planning for the future. R-AGE @ GII, if you’re reading this, you ought to thank God for a team of dedicated shepherds who stayed up til 3am and spilled their dreams on an 18-month calendar. It’s gonna be a mind-blowing 2011 and we must certainly rise up to the challenge, to move from involvement to commitment. We’ve been working hard for you; we don’t ask for a lot, only that you can return the favour and pray hard along with us. Remember, revival will come not when we pursue programmes, but when our people pray.
I shall resume my writing by posting the key points of the sermon I preached last Sunday. (Do note that I omit illustrations and analogies in my sermon recaps.) A guest speaker will be speaking this weekend and I will return to the pulpit next weekend to tackle the next portion of James. Let’s continue to be conscientious in our own reading of the Word. (Anyway, I think my sermon recaps are getting longer and longer!)
Don’t push the blame but take responsibility instead
- You naturally know how to push the blame without actually being taught how to do it.
- Trials are usually external situations that strengthen you while temptations are internal struggles that shatter you.
- God tests you to bring out the best in you – He desires for you to grow spiritually; Satan tempts you to bring out the worst in you – to cause you to sin.
- God wants you to grow up but Satan wants you to go down.
- Temptation springs out of your own evil desires (v14). Hence, do not blame God (or Satan or Man) when you are tempted and when you sin; no one made you do it – you made you do it. Take responsibility for your own sin.
- God doesn’t contradict His own character; if He is holy and hates sin, why would He tempt you?
The ATTACK – how temptations work
- To deal with sin, understand how temptations work. Adam and Eve demonstrates this perfectly for they were, after all, the first perpetrators.
- James 1:14a – It begins with a DESIRE. Satan knows your desire and what you are tempted by so he plants exactly that in your heart to entice you; temptations always begins on a small scale that is almost unnoticeable – that’s why it’s dangerous. Sin always begins with something as small and harmless as stealing $1.
- Satan tempted Eve in Genesis 3:4-5 with, 1) “You will surely not die”, 2) “You will be like God” and 3) “You will know good and evil”.
- James 1:14b – Desire spirals into DECEPTION. You probably have a tendency to convince yourself, rationalise your thoughts and justify your actions until it feels like whatever that you had intended to do is right. To be deceived, in Greek, literally means, “to be led down a wrong path”.
- Eve convinced herself in Genesis 4:6a, that the tree was “good for food”, “a delight to the eyes” and could “make one wise”. God certainly didn’t describe the tree that way.
- James 1:15a – Deception transits into a DECISION. This marks the beginning of sin; Eve lost the battle here as she decided to succumb to her desires.
- In Genesis 3:6b, Eve saw the wrong thing, entertained the wrong thoughts and experienced the wrong desires. She went ahead to eat the fruit (and even gave it to Adam!).
- James 1:15b – Decision leads to DEATH. The result of sin meant that Adam and Eve, as well as the rest of us before we knew Jesus, were eternally separated from God. That explains why the world is a messed-up place and needs a Saviour to redeem it from eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).
- Know how sin and temptation works if you want to overcome it – and the only way to overcome it is to depend on God to help you.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 – God’s real role in temptation is to help you get out of it. Temptation is a way you trap ourselves, but God provides us with a way out. Each time you are tempted, you are tempted within your ability. It is your job to find that way out of the temptation.
The COUNTERATTACK – how to overcome temptations
- The problem isn’t in the temptation but in the desire that is within your heart; sin will always look good at the start for it appeals to pleasures but it always ends up as a disaster. Before yielding to temptation, count the cost of its destruction. Would you rather the blessings that God gives or the lies and hurt that Satan brings?
- James 1:17a – TRUST GOD’S CHARACTER. When you trust the goodness of the Father, it will help you to remain unmoved by Satan’s temptations. You yield to Satan’s temptations because you cannot wait for God’s blessings; remember that it is God who blesses you with good things, not Satan.
- Be wary of the microwave generation that demands immediacy and instant gratification. Sometimes, your impatience causes you to make your own miracles instead of waiting for the only Miracle Maker.
- The battle with temptation boils down to a battle of faith. Who do you trust? God, Satan or ourselves? If you really submit to the Lord in all aspects of your life, then you will receive the ultimate protection against temptation; you can trust God because He is constant and never changes.
- James describes God as one who doesn’t change like shifting shadows. God is like the sun – it doesn’t change, it doesn’t move. The “shifting shadows” don’t come from God but from you; you shift, but God doesn’t. This makes Him a trustworthy God and someone you can trust wholeheartedly.
- James 1:18 – TAKE IN GOD’S WORD. Truth will set you free. Read the Word of God – understand, internalise and memorise it. Make it a part of you for you cannot be apart from it. Don’t just depend on pastors and leaders to teach you the Word – know the Word for yourself. To break out of the cycle of temptation, you need the truth to be recycled in you.
- 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 10:14 & 2 Timothy 2:22 – TAKE OFF AND FLEE. When you are tempted, don’t even try to deal with it – just run.
- James 4:7b – TACKLE THE DEVIL. Don’t fight temptation and flee the devil, but flee temptation and fight the devil.
- Remember biblical truths when you fight the devil. Do not be afraid of the devil for you are God’s dear child and that Christ, who is in you, is greater than the devil who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
- The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war. Temptation is a battlefield and a war-zone in your head. During peace time, when you are not tempted, fill your head with truth, so that when the battle begins, you will emerge victorious and overcome the devil not by might or by power but by the spirit of God.
- James 4:7a – TURN BACK TO GOD. Balance the pressure inside you and ensuring that it is equal and opposite to the pressure outside. Instead of just combating external pressure – which is to flee from temptation and fight the devil – you must also build internal pressure, which is to focus on God. Submit yourself to God first before you resist the devil – make that your goal.
- Memorising the Word is biblical. Psalm 119:9-11 instructs young men to store God’s word and hide it in their hearts. The blood of Jesus cleans you from committed sin but the word of God keeps you from uncommitted sin. Hence, focus on God on the inside and fight the devil on the outside, while at the same time flee from temptations! So that when temptation comes, the Word of God will come. In order to overcome lies and deceit, be filled with truth. Scripture memory is not for impressing others but for insulating yourself.
Boast of your weakness and receive the power of Christ
- While God is a holy God who doesn’t tolerate sin, He is also a loving God who wants to help you overcome sin. Only the grace of God can prevent the sin in your life from being “full-grown and gives birth to death”.
- 1 Corinthians 12:9 – God gives you His grace, which is sufficient for you and through that, His power is made perfect by your weaknesses. Your response then, is to boast all the more gladly about your weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on you.
- Hebrews 4:15-16 – Jesus understands what you go through because He has gone through it Himself; He sits on the throne of grace and He is able to give you undeserved favour; you know that you will fall and keep falling, week after week, so that’s why you need His grace again and again. You know that you will be unable to withstand the pressure of sin and temptation. You know that you cannot do this on your own.
- Ask God for His strength to help you overcome temptations. Come before God and to confess your sins to Him. Confess it to a brother or sister whom you trust for James 5:6 encourages us to confess your sins to one another and to pray for each other.
- Ask God for His grace to help you to trust His promises, memorise His word, run away from temptations, fight the devil and to fix your eyes on Him. Come to the point where you know that you can’t do it on your own and that you are sick of depending on yourself.
There was only one show in recent times that caught my attention and I was glad that I managed to watched it on Friday – the latest psychological blockbuster, Inception. Before I proceed to share my thoughts about this, I’d like to go on record to place this outstanding movie in the list of my all-time favourites. It contains all the ingredients that I hunt for in a movie:
- A multi-layered plot,
- In-depth character development,
- A couple of twists-within-a-twist,
- A memorable script, and of course,
- Convincing acting skills.
I’m thoroughly impressed with this film; after all, there aren’t many movies that leave me speechless when I exit the cinema. Yes, I do recommend that you catch it.
Now, there is a huge variety of movie genres and while I prefer drama and inspiration to action and chick-flicks, the ones that truly take my breath away (and arrest my mind) are what I call, “culture-shapers”; I will rename it when I think of a better way to call it – basically, movies that change the way we look at things, us, or even the world.
I’ll list a few examples that come straight to my head. The Sixth Sense causes us to rethink the whole realm of the dead and how it may possibly exist amongst us; The Prestige makes us question the scale of evil that human beings are capable of and the extent we possibly would go to achieve what we’ve set out to do. Inception investigates the subconscious activities in our minds when we dream and leaves us to under ponder upon the hidden creative power that we may have; The Matrix (though it’s not in my list of favourites) challenges us to think about reality and whether we really live in a time and space which we perceive ourselves to occur in.
Basically, all the above-mentioned movies (and I’m sure you could think of more titles) makes us contemplate and challenges us to review what we think we actually know. Without getting existential (and irreverently irrelevant), I actually think it’s great to reexamine the normalcy of what I think is normally normal – know what I mean?
To state the obvious, I’ve decided to call these movies “culture-shapers” simply because they could potentially shape our culture. Regardless of demographic make-up, we will always remain an impressionable generation and it’s films like these that influences us to cross-examine what we’ve been brought-up and educated to think.
(I shall digress here – I think it’s a paradox to be “taught” how to think and in spite of how ridiculous that sounds, we don’t even do that enough, especially in our country – where we are educated to deliver what’s right – where the “correct” answer is the one that gives you the highest score, and not actually what you agree with, or even have a chance to agree with. All right, I think I’m starting to lose my train of thought here and as well as to lose you in them so I shall withhold these particular thoughts for another post in future, if ever. Now, back to movies that make you think…)
There are all kinds of movies, some with twisted and distorted values, some that satisfies our adrenaline appetite, some that quench our lustful desires, some that takes us on a journey back to our childhood days, some that inspires us to dream and achieve things, some that makes us fall in love, some that gently reminds us about the important things in life… And some that simply just makes us think. I’m a huge fan of that last genre because I think it’s the best thing that a secular production could make me do – to think. I’d rather fill my mind with things to think about than things which are spoon-fed to me.
Here are just 15 of my all-time favourite movies (and you’ll understand why I’ve never been a mainstream movie goer), in no order of preference:
- Dead Poets Society
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Remember The Titans
- The Prestige
- The Devil’s Advocate
- The Butterfly Effect
- Tuesdays With Morrie
- Forrest Gump
- Good Will Hunting
- Finding Forrester
- Dead Man Walking
- Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
I’m sure I’ve missed out other great titles in this list (such as The Godfather trilogy and Schindler’s List which I’ve been wanting to watch for the longest time already). Do you know of any other to recommend? It’d be great if I could hear from you – what’s a “culture-shaping” movie you’ve watched and why did it leave and impression in you? Do leave a comment and share your thoughts with me.