‘God Doesn’t give you more than you can Handle’ isn’t the Gospel

Today’s sermon comes from Sermon Audio and can be found here. You can download the PDF file here. The titled of this sermon is:

You Can and Must Resist Temptation
By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

Preached on: Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

In today’s sermon review we will be taught about temptation. Jess will tells us that there are two types of people in the world, those who resist and those who follow temptation into sin.

“So as we approach the word of God, I want you to consider a couple of things. There are two categories of people that attend a church. There’s at least two categories. The first category are those who look for ways to indulge temptation. That’s the first category. They look for ways to indulge temptation. And the second category are those who look for ways to resist temptation. Going in different directions. Put it this way: there are those trying to get away with sin and there are those trying to get away from sin.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

I’d like to think that most of us fit in the category of getting away from sin. Christian’s do not openly and high handedly cling to their sin, calling good evil and evil good.  Jess, is correct, there are those who use the name Christian but openly defy God’s Word saying that God approves of their sin, instead of despising it so much that He came down from Heaven, in human flesh, to die, to take the punishment for our sin, to save us from it.  Sin, therefore, is not a good thing.

“It is those who are driven by their own passions and lusts and they seek to justify them. When life gets hard, they will excuse their own sin, believing that they deserve this small indulgence. They believe they can’t help it, that sin was forced upon them. When being a Christian gets hard, they will long for the apparent freedom that the world offers. Their hearts are in the world while their feet are in the church and they will put the Lord to the test. They will get as close as they can to see if they don’t get burned. They will stick their toe in the water. They will wade out into the surf to see how far they can go before they fall off the ledge. They want to hold on to their Christian identity but they want to modify the lifestyle to accommodate their preferences. When the pull of idolatry gets too strong they say, “God will forgive me. He will understand. He would never want me to suffer. He would never want me to be unhappy,” because their concern is not God’s will, God’s pleasure, but their own and they want God and you to support them in that cause so they proceed thinking that they are safe from the judgment of God and the negative consequence of sin. The truth is, it’s questionable whether or not these people genuinely know the Lord. Does this describe you and your relationship with temptation and sin? Are you looking for a way to indulge your preferences and your desires? Do you want to modify what Scripture says to justify your idolatry? Is that you?”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

So, Jess is giving us some hard Law here.  Who hasn’t been in this category?  Who hasn’t sinned and believed such lies?  Who hasn’t comforted themselves with sin when life is hard?  This is nothing but breaking the first commandment, as sinful humans we do this all the time.  Even as Christians we struggle with our faith.  This law, that Jess is giving to us, convicts us all. This is good as long as he gives us the Gospel. Hopefully he presents us with a crucified and risen savior for our justification.  

There is a fine line between “I’m a Christian and I can be licentious and live like an Antinomian; in other words blend in with the world and act like the world.”, And “I’m a Christian that sins daily but I hate my sin and have repentant faith”. I think Jess is trying to explain this difference however the Law still convicts and accuses and he is “crossing the streams” a bit here and making Christianity more about fighting sin instead of drowning it in the Gospel of Christ Crucified.

“The second category are those who want to flee from sin. They want to resist temptation. They are genuine believers and they might see other believers indulging in worldliness and they are tempted to follow. They’re influenced by ungodliness but their ultimate desire is to love the Lord, to serve him, to follow him. If something is sinful, they’re grieved when they participate, not because of self-righteousness but because they love God. They want the Lord to be pleased. They’re willing to suffer for him and would rather suffer than do something that displeases or brings dishonor to him. They would rather suffer. They would rather put up with injustice. They would rather put up with being wronged than to dishonor God. That’s in 1 Corinthians, by the way. They are tempted to join the grumbling and the gossip and the conspiring, but they fear the Lord and the consequences of sin. They want to enjoy the world, they have a temptation there, the temptation is strong, it would be easier to give in, to listen to the world, to have fun, to enjoy acceptance in our society and to have the culture think well of them, but they want to avoid temptation but it’s so strong they’re not sure if they can hold out. They’re not sure if they can hold on. They fear that and they fear the consequences of sin. “How will I handle these temptations? Can I resist? Can I endure? How can I resist the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil?” These are the questions this person is asking, not how close can I get and how much can I do, how far can I go? Which category are you in? Humble love and submission to the Lord while still being tempted by worldliness, or are you proud and complacent in your idolatrous cravings and ungrateful grumblings against the will of God, feeling safe in your worldliness and seeking ways out of godliness? Which one are you? Today’s passage has something for both categories.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

He is “crossing the streams” and mixing Law and Gospel here. He is saying that your not a Christian unless you are being obedient and never failing in temptation. This is the trouble when you try to preach on “are you this or are you that”. If your not extremely careful you end up preaching self-righteousness, or try to comfort with a gospel of good works.

Jess is asking us if we love God and are submissive to Him even when we are tempted. He is trying to give you comfort that if you are doing the right thing then you are a Christian, yet it’s law. The law makes no one a Christian. If it could then Christ died in vain. I would hope that Jess pronounces forgiveness to us for the sin of idolatry and gives us Christ crucifed, let’s see where he goes.

“I’ve entitled today’s message “You Must and Can Resist Temptation.” You must and can resist temptation. Over the next three weeks, we’re gonna examine this passage from verse 1 all the way down to verse 13, but today we’ll focus in on verses 12 and 13, and of course, the verse that you are probably more familiar with is verse 13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and 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.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

“You sin by choice, not because the temptation was too great, not because the circumstances were too hard, not because your wife was overbearing, and not because your husband is mean, and not because your children are crazy. You sin by choice and you have no excuse and so you will be held accountable for your decisions. It’s true, this is a great encouragement but it is also a dire warning.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

Jess is half correct, we can willingly sin by choice. However, due to the fall of Adam, we sin because we are sinners. Apart from Christ we are in bondage to sin, we don’t do anything that isn’t tainted by sin. Yet, in Christ, we still have this disease of original sin but through faith we are now able to do some good because we want to do good, we are regenerated and can and will do some good works. God provides a way out of every temptation, yet due to our sinfulness we don’t always take that route of escape. We will still sin, regardless of how hard we try. We won’t be sinless this side of the ressurection.

Like I said I worry here that he is crossing the streams and mixing law and gospel. Reading this sermon I found myself wondering if he is trying to teach that we can attain a sinless perfection in this world. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case, I just think in writing this sermon there wasn’t much care at all to distinguish between law and gospel.

“Do you think there is a temptation in the city of Corinth that was harder than what you’ve gone through? And here’s the other thing, most of these people, actually all of these people were first generation Christians. Every single one of them. Saved. In fact, look back at chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians. Let me see here. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. It says, “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Okay, fair enough. Verse 11, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” And jump ahead a few chapters, there is no temptation that has overtaken you except which is common to man and God will provide the way for you to escape it. I don’t care what you were addicted to in your past life. I don’t care what all your friends are doing. I don’t care what your family is doing. There is no temptation that has overtaken you that God has not designed to be within your ability to handle and along with that temptation he will provide the way for you to escape it so that you will be able to bear up under it, so that you’ll be able to endure it. No temptation. You can’t blame it on the internet. You can’t blame it on your background. You can’t blame it on whatever you got involved in in your past life.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

Jess, are you trying to run from the Gospel on purpose? He gives us the Law and then reads how we were washed, sanctified, and justified in Jesus Christ. Then instead of preaching on the Gospel he immediately says “and jump ahead a few chapters” and continues to give us more Law. He seems to think that the gospel is that God won’t allow you to be tempted more than you can bear, instead of that being a fruit of the Gospel, a gift of the Christian life.

There is a way to preach on being free from sin and this is not it. Please Jess, give us the Gospel. Only the Gospel gives us the ability to resist temptation, please give us that Gospel. Give us Christ crucified, give us God in the flesh, give us His righteousness instead of pointing us to our own filthy rags. Give us His resurrection for our justification.

“And so Paul warns them here, he says, he says that just because you are a part of the people of God, just because you experienced God’s power, just because you hear good preaching and even if you are one of those people that came along with Moses, just because you’re there and hearing it all and experiencing it all does not mean that you are safe in your sin because it says in verse, earlier on in this chapter, that with most of them God was not well-pleased, and that’s an understatement.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

“If anyone among you does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. You see, our loyalty is to God. Sin is genuine wickedness and that’s what we’ve been called out of to follow him. Okay, so that is the warning, you must resist temptation, from verse 12. Not only must you, you can resist temptation. Here’s point number 1 under that, you can resist temptation, point 1 is: you are not special. You’re not special. It’s so easy to think that you are a special case, that you have been afflicted beyond what is normal for human existence and human experience, it’s so easy to believe that the temptations pointed at you are stronger than what anyone else has to face; that somehow the devil’s got you marked out and he’s coming after you and that you have to give in. But here 1 Corinthians 10:13 makes it very clear you are not special. It says, verse 13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.””

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

“What you’re going through is what humans go through. It’s common. It’s
common. It’s common, so calm down. I’m not, listen, I’m not diminishing the hardship, okay? What I’m saying is that the power of God and God’s care for you is so strong and so faithful and so true that you will have the resources you need to bear with it when it comes but don’t dramatize it and don’t think you’re a special case.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

Jess says if you don’t love the Lord, if you are not loyal to God, you are accursed. And then says that God’s care for you is so strong and faithful that He will give us the resources to bear with the temptation but not fall into sin. Think about this. This is a first commandment issue, loving God above all else, being loyal to Him, fearing, loving, and trusting God above every thing. If you don’t do this with perfect obedience, Jess says, that you are accursed.

Now that’s some heavy hard law. I hope we get some forgiveness pronounced through Christ crucified for those sins because this is heavy accusation by the Law. No one, can fulfill this commandment. Furthermore, if God gives you what you need to withstand temptation, yet you fall into sin, is that then because I’m accursed by God for breaking the first commandment? If I’m accursed by God then God is angry with me, always, until I merit for my sins and stop sinning. You see how this ends in despair? Jess’ gospel is no gospel at all, only an improper use of the Law.

“God limits the temptation to your ability and here’s the thing too, I love this: this is put in the future, right? God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. So in the coming months and years, in 2020, there will not be a single time that you will be tempted beyond what you’re able and the reason is because God will not allow it. Though the world, the flesh and the devil all work against you, God is only allowing enough of that temptation to get through to be to the level that you can endure it. He’s active in that process.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

“God will not allow the storm to be stronger than you can bear and he will give you the place of refuge so that you can hold out. And look at what it says there, “so that you will be able to endure it.” Not so that you can
never be tempted. Not so that the temptation will go away. But so that you will endure it. So that way of escape also means the way to the end. God will provide the way to finish the temptation without giving in. You will be able to outlast the temptation all the way. Your temptation will not overpower you and it will not outlast you, it will not wear you down. God is faithful. When his timing is right, he will take you out.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

Jess says you will be able to outlast temptation all the way. So then we should always be sinless right? If God always provides a way out of temptation then we will never fall into temptation, we will never sin. If this is true, in the manner that he is misusing the Law, then Christ died in vain. If we can always take the escape route then we can be justified by works. Yet, we can’t be justified by works, we are sinners. So what about when I sin, I’m either to assume God failed me or I’ve failed God. Either way without Christ as mediator for my sin I am left with nothing but utter despair that God is angry with me.

He’s wrapping up his sermon and this seems to be what Jess thinks is the good news that we needed to hear. His good news is bad news. Apart from the Gospel, without Christ’s body and blood for your sin, this is a message of despair. There isn’t any comfort for those who sin, there is only a message of trusting God more, which is the first commandment. The first commandment is not the Gospel. The notion that we are to be sinless denies Original Sin, it denies that original sin is still present and that you can attain a level of perfection that you will never sin again. This sermon isn’t going well. Let’s see how Jess wraps it up.

“You see, it’s not by your strength that you endure the temptation. God is tailoring the trial and he is the one upon whom we rely for the escape and the endurance, and he will be there even when it feels stronger than we can bear, because there will be times where from our perspective it feels that way but the truth of the matter is that the faithfulness of God will not allow that to be the case for those who belong to him.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

“So if you’re in the category of one who wants to follow Christ, if you’re in the category of one who wants to resist temptation, this is a great hope and encouragement for you and we can encourage one another with these words, “Listen, I know that it’s hard. I know, I know that temptation is strong. I know that the trials are real. I know that you feel burdened often beyond your strength but I also know that if your chief desire is to bring glory and honor to God, He will give you the ability to do that through every single thing that you face and He will be with you there until the end. But if you are the sort that is seeking not the way of escape, not to escape temptation but to escape godliness, take heed lest you fall.” We will fill out our understanding of this passage more in the next
two weeks.”

‘You Can and Must Resist Temptation’ By Jess Arnds |Providence Church

That’s how Jess ends his sermon. He essentially says “I know you want to do better, the good news is, with God, you can do better“. This is not the Gospel. There isn’t any mention of forgiveness for this sin, there wasn’t a Gospel message in this sermon, just the terrible news that God is testing you and you can know your good if you just stop sinning because the good news is that God won’t allow you to be tempted to the point that you sin.

Jess, that is the worst news I would want to hear. I know I can’t stop sinning, because I’m a sinner. You tell me that “if your chief desire is to bring glory and honor to God, He will give you the ability to do that through every single thing that you face“. This is nothing but law. If I do this then God will do that is not the Gospel. If I do the first commandment then God will keep me from sinning is nothing but Law.

When we look at the text that Jess preached things become a bit more clear. This is because we can look at the surrounding context and context matters.

1 Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 However with most of them, God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 Don’t be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Let’s not commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell. 9 Let’s not test Christ, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents. 10 Don’t grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.13 No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men. Judge what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, isn’t it a sharing of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, isn’t it a sharing of the body of Christ?

1 Corintians 10: 1-16

So, yes this text is telling us about the first commandment and to flee idolatry. This text also tells us that, Christian’s will be tempted by all sorts of sins because they are regenerated, have eternal life, are made alive by the Spirit through the gift of faith. This means that while we will still be tempted to run here and there, and after this sin and that sin, we are no longer in bondage to sin, that we would no longer have to sin and not have any means in which to flee sin. This is because, as Christian’s we have been set free from the bondage of the devil and we no longer as slaves to sin. Yet we are still tempted to sin. God always allows a way to escape temptation, yet due to our sinful nature we don’t always take the escape route. We are free from bondage to sin but we still sin daily, there is an escape but due to our sinful nature we often times reject the escape and try to make excuses. Apart from the Gospel this daily battle is all Law. Luther explains temptation in this way:

106] This, then, is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when He gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, be engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them.

Large Catechism; Lord’s Prayer

Luther tells us that we will be engulfed in the temptations of the world but God wants us to pray that we are not to let them drown us and take us away from the faith. We never stop sinning, we will fall into sins, but we pray that we won’t let them overtake us that we become enslaved to them as an unbeliever. This is a big difference in what Jess was telling us in his sermon. Especially since in the Lord’s prayer we pray for, and have, the forgiveness of sins. We see here that we will sin and that we have forgiveness for those sins and that yes we cling to Christ and His promise in this Petition that we not be led astray into temptation but that we are stengthened in our faith in the Gospel promise of God’s love for us in Christ crucified, so that we are not overtaken into manifest sins that would cause us to depart from the faith.

That’s a big difference than what Jess says that a true Christian has sinless perfection, so much so that they no longer need the forgiveness of sins in Christ crucified because he never gave us that. Jess just tosses us back onto the first commandment instead of the fact that we will sin, we pray that God forgive those sins and to not let those sins hurt us as we are kept in repentant faith. That’s the golden nugget that was missing in this sermon; repentant faith… in Christ crucified. Without the Gospel we are only trying on our own efforts to flee sin and it will only make matters worse.

Which if Jess would have continued the following verses give us that sweet Gospel of the Eucharist. That Gospel that we share in the body and blood of Christ. This would have been a great way to pronounce to us the forgiveness of sins that we have in the Gospel, Baptism, and the Eucharist. He could have explained who Christ is, what He did for us, that He gives us His holy precious body and blood to eat, and drink, as it is given to us for the forgiveness of sins.

The proof of your salvation isn’t in an ability to resist temptation and to have sinless perfection. You will fail and sin daily. Jess’ gospel is one of despair. The proof of your salvation is external, it is outside of yourself. It is in God who took on flesh and blood, lived a perfect sinless life and suffered the punishment that a sinner deserves. He was innocent, you are guilty. Yet, instead of punishing you and condemning you, He took the punishment for you. He suffered the wrath that we deserve and did it while being striped naked, naked to the cross, and then God died.

He rose from the grave three days later, not to punish you, but to give you credit for living that perfect life, to give you the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of God. See, your sins are paid for, they are done and gone, you are forgiven, daily, for every sin you do, and everytime you struggled but lost against temptation. God loves you. He gives you this forgiveness in His Word, and in Sacraments because they contain His word. God gives us external means by which we hear, see, and taste forgiveness. His Spirit is in the Word and He delivers you this forgiveness in Word and things that He has attached to His Word, baptism and Eucharist. God is so full of mercy and love that He just can’t give you enough of it. He loves you and forgives you for Christ’s sake alone, not on anything you can do to earn His love. In fact, Paul continues to give us this Gospel message in just a few chapters. He says the following:

1 Now I declare to you, brothers, the Good News which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15: 1-4

If only Jess would have given us this message he could have had a better sermon. If only he could have given us God in the flesh on the cross for our sins and Him raised three days later for our justification. If only he could have given us this on going gospel promise, for the forgiveness of our sins and the stengthening of our faith. Pastors can fail us but God never will. His promise is true and because He is given and shed His blood, for you. Jess actually disobeyed Jesus by not giving you the forgiveness of sins in God who took on flesh and bones for our salvation:

46 He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem

Luke 24: 46-47

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God; and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already.

1 John 4: 1-3

God is faithful, please pray for faithful pastors who have the ability to rightly distinguish between law and gospel, who will always convict your sins but always follow with the Gospel of God in the flesh, who took that sin away, who took your punishment for that sin, so that by his resurrection you have justification by the gift of faith, given to you by the Spirit through Word and Sacrament. May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.

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