Temptation Sermon Illustrations

Temptation Sermon Illustrations

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In the engrossing story of his life the Russian novelist Maxim Gorky tells of his experiences as a cabin boy on a steamer on the Volga River. Depraved, degraded, corrupted and corrupting men and women were all around him. Particularly evil in speech and action was the stewardess of the boat.

But Gorky relates that he suffered no harm, because his world was different from their world. "I did not grasp," he says, "the meaning of her speech, although I dimly guessed at it. But I was not disturbed by it. I lived far away from the stewardess, and from all that went on in that world. I lived behind a great rugged rock that hid me from all that world." You can have your own world if you are determined to have it. What kind of world do you want?


When he passed the haunt of the sirens Ulysses had his sailors bind him to the mast of the ship, so that even if he was tempted by their music to desert the path of honor and of duty his bonds would hold him fast. But the Argonauts, who went sailing into the Black Sea, seeking for the Golden Fleece in that very peninsula where not long ago a Russian army resisted the German hordes, took Orpheus with them on their ship; and when any danger beset them they had Orpheus play on his magic harp. So Christ in our hearts is the chief defense against temptation.


In an article dealing with the habits of tigers in a country of the Far East, the author tells of a man who, overcome with the heat, left the shelter of his cabin and lay down to sleep in the open with only a small frail mosquito netting stretched over him. Awakened by a mysterious warning such as men sometimes get, he saw approaching his place of bivouac a tiger, his eyes glaring in the night. Closer and closer the tiger came, and then he was joined by another. Repeatedly they came up to that mosquito netting, until their very breath made it quiver, but each time they drew back, mystified and alarmed, until with a wild roar of fear the man frightened them off.

The veil of innocence which God has wrapped around the soul will save it from destruction—until a man rends it himself by his own deliberate will and invites the foe to come in.


A man in a dream once saw himself in a glass cage surrounded by furious foes who sought with all manner of weapons to destroy him. But their weapons could not penetrate the wall of glass, and he looked down serenely upon their rage. Something like that Christ meant when he said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16: 33).


When Theseus set out on his dangerous journey through the Cretan labyrinth to slay the Minotaur, Ariadne put into his hand a silken thread. That thread would remind him of her and would guide him through the perils of the labyrinth and to the upper world again. But the Christian disciple in the dangerous passages of human life has something better than that—he has the promise of the presence of the Living Christ.


"She brought him butter in a lordly dish." (Judges 5:25.) This lordly dish was used only when the most honored and distinguished guests were in the home. The use of this dish by Jael made Sisera feel that Jael thought it a high honor to entertain him, and thus any suspicions he might have had were set at rest. Under the spell of flattery men are often fools immeasurable, and in its intoxication are led to do things that in the clear light of reason they would never have done.

"She brought him butter in a lordly dish." That has spelled the downfall of many a man. In the memorable chapter in the book of Proverbs where a woman leads a man down to the chambers of death, it is the weapon of flattery which she employs. "With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life." (Prov. 7:21-23)


Marco Polo, the famous medieval traveler, tells of a great desert near the town of Lop where evil spirits lured travelers to destruction by means of an extraordinary delusion, if a traveler had fallen behind the caravan and was by himself, he would hear his name called in a familiar tone of voice. Thinking it was the voice of a companion and friend, he would leave the road and follow the voice, and so perish.

Probably no such place as Marco Polo describes ever existed. Nevertheless, what he relates is a parable which describes the temptation of a friend. The temptations which come to us through friendship are ofttimes the most dangerous.


A minister who had done great service in the church, and for God and man, had this to say: "I have had some degree of experimental acquaintance with Jesus Christ for almost forty years. I have borne the ministerial character for upwards of twenty-five years. I have been perhaps of some little use in the Church of God, and I have had a greater share of esteem among religious people than I had any reason to expect. Yet after all, it is possible for me in one single hour of temptation to blast my character, to ruin my public usefulness, and to render my warmest Christian friends ashamed of owning me."


On a soft summer evening King David, walking on the roof of his palace, saw a woman bathing. In that moment of time David plunged into a deep abyss of sin and murder and crime. In the courtyard of the high priest, while Jesus was being examined within, Peter and John stood by the fire warming themselves. Peter had shown great bravery so far that night. It looked as if his boast that he would be faithful to Christ even unto prison and unto death would be made
good. But a maidservant pointed her finger at him, and said, "Thou art one of them" (Mark 14:70), and in that moment Peter began to curse and to swear, and to say, "I know not this man."


One look, and Lot's wife was a pillar of salt. Just a look! There is "life for a look"; there is also death for a look. Augustine in his Confessions relates the story of a young man at Rome who had been won from a life of sin and licentiousness to Christ. He forsook his old ways. One day some of his friends persuaded him to go with them to the Colosseum. He took a seat with his companions far up on the topmost bench of that colossal ellipse. As soon as the trumpet rang for the spectacle to commence, he firmly closed his eyes, resolved not to look upon the unholy sights. So the spectacles passed. But at one act, or conflict, the excited and blood-intoxicated thousands put up a mighty roar of acclaim. At the sound, Alypius opened his eyes, just for a moment. But by the one look he was lost. He forsook Christ and went back to the world. Do not imagine that it is safe to take even one look at sin, just for a moment to caress it with the touch of furtive imagination. One look turned Lot's wife to a pillar of salt.


There is no fatalism in Christianity. We are not tempted beyond our powers to resist. King Edward III, looking down on the hills around Abbeyville, where the Black Prince was fighting and seemed to be engulfed by the enemy, refused to send any succor to his aid which might withdraw from him the honor of a well-contested victory. He saw in the danger of the Black Prince an opportunity for glory. So in our temptations our Great Commander wants us to win spiritual and moral strength and renown.

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