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Steering Clear of Temptation Trail (James 1:12-16)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 16 February 2014 00:00


The following notes are for those of you who want to think and dig a little deeper into the passage that we covered on Sunday. Sometimes they amplify what was said on Sunday and/or include things which could not be included due to time restraints. The teacher reaps a great blessing from the preparation time in the Word. My desire is to share a bit more of this blessing with you. Don't be overwhelmed. Just use these notes if and as they help you to get to know our Savior better through understanding His Word.

James 1:5-8 provided a brief parenthetical discussion on asking God for wisdom.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
To any of His children who lack wisdom, God gives /makes available His wisdom to ALL (1:5) with lavish generosity and without the slightest bit of reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting … What is the Source of my faith in God? [Romans 10:17} So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.] Faith is the persuasion, the conviction that something is true. The way to get to where you can ask God in faith, with no doubting, is to camp out in God’s Word, so that you can become better acquainted with Him personally and become convinced of the truth of His promises. The author of Hebrews reminded us (11:6) ~ But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
God has given ALL of us His Word through which He has made His wisdom available to ALL His children! The issue is whether or not we (His kids) will RECEIVE it from the Lord (1:7).
As I invest time in God’s Word, in fellowship with the Lord, I am hearing what He says. As I hear what He says in His Word, my mind is being renewed so that I can be thinking about things the way He does, from an eternal perspective. This is especially important when we fall into the various (multifaceted, polka-dotted) trials that invariably cross our paths. As you can see from the outline of James’ letter below, the way to respond to our trials properly and behave like we should as a believer, is to be swift to hear God’s Word and then apply what He says to my life.
God uses His Word to reveal to us the truth, which when believed, brings forth spiritual birth from above (1:17-18). Now, as God’s children, God will use that implanted Word to save our lives (souls) from the death-dealing effects of sin (1:21). In the very next book in our English Bibles, Peter speaks of this same process of spiritual birth (1:23) and growth (2:2) in 1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3. Of course, we recall the conclusion of 2 Peter (3:17-18), in which we are again reminded that God uses His Word to bring about our spiritual growth through the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I. SALUTATION (1:1)

II. PROLOGUE: RESPOND TO TRIALS PROPERLY (1:2-18)
A. By Welcoming Them (1:2-11)
B. By Not Accusing God (1:12-18)

III. THEME: BEHAVE WELL IN TRIALS (1:19-20)

IV. BODY OF THE LETTER: APPLY GOD’S TRUTH TO MY DAILY LIVING (1:21-5:6)
A. By Being Swift to Hear (1:21-2:26)
B. By Being Slow to Speak (3:1-18)
C. By Being Slow to Wrath (4:1-5:6)

V. EPILOGUE: PERSEVERE IN TRIAL TO THE END (5:7-20)

1. A TRIAL BECOMES A BLESSING IF I RESPOND
WITH FAITH IN GOD AND WITH LOVE FOR HIM (1:12).

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation (trial); for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
The new subject of love for God (last phrase of v. 12) leads James to discuss a new aspect of our attitude toward trials. In these trials, what is our attitude toward God?
If a Christian does not love God, a wrong attitude toward testing can easily arise.
The crown of life is for those who love Him, but not for those who, for example, accuse God of tempting them with evil.
That brings us to ask,
HOW DO TRIALS BECOME TEMPTATIONS? (1:12-13)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
At this point in the prologue, James makes a subtle shift in his use of the word peirasmos, from its broader meaning, translated “trials” in v. 3, to its more narrow meaning of “temptation,” or solicitation to evil, as translated by the NKJV in vv 12, 13 and 14. As I suggested last time, it should probably still be translated as “trial” in 1:12, as that seems to fit the context better.
I think it is safe to say that in every “trial” (the broad sense of the word peirasmos) into which we fall, there is also a “temptation” to do evil (the narrow sense of the word peirasmos).
What James is saying is this: One type of trial (or peirasmos) is from God and is good and beneficial. But the other type is from Satan and is evil. God, says James, has nothing to do with the latter. So when one is tempted to do evil, let him not accuse GOD of tempting him in that way.
If I lose my job, that’s a test. But having lost my job, I may be tempted to steal – that’s a temptation issuing out of my trying situation.
God may be responsible for the test but never the temptation.
Zane Hodges pointed out that this raises a theological QUESTION: How could Christ Himself have been tempted if God cannot be tempted? Was not Jesus God?
The ANSWER is that Jesus was most emphatically was and is God!
But unlike ourselves, His human nature was totally free from the slightest evil impulse or inclination. We must understand that the concept of temptation is both objective and subjective.

When someone tries to persuade us to do wrong, he is, objectively speaking, tempting us.
He is soliciting from us an evil thought, word or deed.
But at the same time, subjectively speaking, we may not actually be “tempted,” since all his efforts may not awaken in us any desire to do the particular evil he suggests.

For example, someone might say, “He tempted me to kiss a rattlesnake in as many ways as he could think up, but rattlesnakes scare me and so that particular form of recreation does not tempt me at all!
So too, the Lord Jesus Christ was “tempted” by Satan because Satan exerted great efforts to seduce Him to violate God’s will. But the Lord was not “tempted” by any of these efforts, since His perfectly holy nature contained nothing that could respond positively to Satan’s solicitations.
Thus, it was as true of Jesus on earth, as it is of God at any time, that (as James says here) He cannot be tempted by evil. The same cannot be said for us.
Rather, the source of our temptations is the inward pull exerted by our own [evil] desires.
If we were not evil people we would have no such desires and would be free of wrong impulses.
So then,
WHY IS TEMPTATION SO TEMPTING? (1:14-16)
The answer is that we have an enemy within, this body of sin, a fleshly ‘fifth column!’

14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
It is clear from verse 14 that James is thinking of “temptation” in the subjective sense.

Whereas Satan’s temptations failed to draw Christ away and lure Him into sin, we find that our sinful fleshly nature naturally responds to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
All Satan’s efforts to lead a Christian into evil, and all the seductions of this present evil world system would have no effect upon a person at all unless he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. After all is said and done, James is right in his final analysis.
There is no temptation for us except when we respond to some seduction in an inward way and find the evil in some way desirable.

In vv 13-14 James is teaching us that God Himself does not tempt anyone. This means that God is not personally the agent of temptation. This means that God is not personally the agent of temptation. But James’ words here leave room for the truth that God allows others to engage in temptation.
Again, Job is the classic example.
God Himself did not tempt Job, but He allowed Satan to do so.
Therefore, we must be careful not to blame God and sinfully charge Him with responsibility for our temptations.
Rather, we must own our own responsibility and realize that we yield to temptations because of our own wicked hearts.
We choose to sin because we want what the temptation seems to offer.

We need to realize that temptation won’t be tempting to us except for when we respond to some seduction in an inward way and we find the evil in some way desirable.
For example, I might drive my pickup to Wal-Mart, and in my haste, jump out and leave the keys in the ignition. While I’m in the store, someone might come by and say, “Wow, nice rig! He sees the keys in the ignition and is unable to resist the temptation, jumps in and drives away. As he’s driving away, he says to himself, “That man shouldn’t have tempted me to steal his pickup.”
Well now, I don’t think I tempted him. The keys in the ignition would be no temptation to a perfectly honest man. They would only be a temptation to a thief, or a man who already had the inclination. This is James’s point If in our trouble we feel a solicitation to evil within us, the only reason it is there is because there is something corrupt within us, namely, our lust. We cannot blame this on God. It is something that originates within us.

15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
James now points out the potentially deadly consequences into which a man’s evil desires can lead him. The language he employs is the language of child-bearing.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Desire (as if it were a woman) experiences a “conception”
(syllabousa: conceiving; when [desire] has conceived)

and subsequently [tiktei] gives birth to sin.

James’ words here give an instructive and interesting analysis of temptation.
He tells us here that desire is the mother of sin. Perhaps we could say that conception occurs when desire, or lust, is united with the human will, so that the birth of sin becomes a determination of the heart.

But after the sin is brought to birth through lust, it grows (i.e., it is repeated) until it reaches maturity (apotelestheisa: coming to completion; when it is full-grown).

Then sin in turn bears (apokuei) a child of its own – namely death.
Do you see what James is saying?
When sin is full-grown, coming to completion, it brings forth (apokyo) death.

Death is the grandchild of my sinful desire or lust.
Sinful desire (lust)  sin  death (LSD)

In describing lust’s effects on our lives, James has drawn a clear, graphic picture.
The imagery is quite impressive as we have seen. Dr. David Anderson has pictured it this way:
“James depicts lust as a woman of the streets with whom our heart has an affair – an illicit relationship. This woman, Madam Lust, becomes pregnant with sin. When the sin grows to the point it can no longer be contained, Madam Lust gives birth to it.
No longer just a thought nestled within the womb of my mind, sin now takes up residence in my home, involving itself in my life and actions. This newborn baby, named Sin, is capable of so much growth. By repetition and by persistence (bottle feeding, if you will) it gains strength; it gains maturity.
And when little baby Sin that Madam Lust gave birth to is fully grown, it becomes capable of producing its own offspring. And this offspring has a name, and it is Death.
Lust is the grandmother of Death; Lust produces Sin, and Sin gives birth to Death.”

This can be illustrated by a person who comes from a poor, economically deprived situation. All the time he’s surrounded by the superior possessions of other people.
And there is born in his heart a desire for those possessions, however he might get them.
The more he sees them, the greater his desire to have them, until one day he sees an unattended $20 bill laying beside a co-worker’s lunch pail. He snatches it away.
At that point, Sin, conceived in his mind by Lust, has grown so big that it is born into action. Madam Lust had become so pregnant that Sin was born into action. But this was just a tiny sin. Having become a thief once, however, he goes on to bigger and better things, and eventually becomes an armed robber, holding up liquor stores and gas stations. In one of these hold-ups, a storeowner shoots and kills him.
That is just one illustration of what James is talking about, this time involving physical death of a violent nature.
But the point James (and the whole Bible) makes is this:
Any sin leads to some form of death. It can literally shorten physical life.

James reaffirms this same truth in 5:20 ~ He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death.
James’ POINT: Death (of our body, of fellowship, of rewards) is ultimate end of sinful conduct.
That was a teaching with which these Jewish believers were well-acquainted from Proverbs:
10:27 ~ The fear of the Lord prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.
11:19 ~ As righteousness leads to life, So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.
12:28 ~ In the way of righteousness is life, And in its pathway there is no death.
13:14 ~ The law of the wise is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death.
19:16 ~ He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of [Literally despises, figurative of recklessness or carelessness] is careless of his ways will die.

Remember, James is writing to born-again people, to believers. So it should be clear that even a born again believer can flirt with premature physical death by indulging his sinful lusts.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
James warns his brothers and sisters in Christ that they (we) must not allow them (our) selves to be deceived! To deceive is “to cause to believe an untruth.”

How could James’ readers ever be deceived into thinking that GOD had tempted them to do evil?
We must never fall into the trap of blaming others (especially God!) for our own sinful desires and tendencies.
It happens the same way it always does. Temptation’s trail is clearly marked:
(1) Outer bait (temptation) is dropped in front of us.
(2) Inner desire (lust) draws us toward it.
(3) Persuasion, through curiosity and rationalization, carries us. We are enticed to yield to the temptation (we bite!) when we believe Satan’s temptation instead of God’s testimony!

In order for lust to “conceive” there must be the joining together of inner desire with outer “bait.”
If there is no joining of these two forces, the element of sin is not present.
It is not the bait that constitutes sin – it’s the bite! I sin when I take the bait!

Temptation flourishes on unbiblical thinking: the process of being drawn away by our own lust begins in my mind. So when I am tempted, I must force myself to face the facts, apply the truth, and see the consequences of my sinful actions.
What consequences? Temptation to evil can lead to physical death, and death is the very exact opposite of what God wants for your life!
Death is the dreadful consequence earned by our sins (the wages of sin is death).
By way of total contrast,
Life is the gift that God wants to bestow.

Our GOD is fundamentally a Giver, who gives us that superlative gift of eternal life from above, as James affirms in the following two verses, James 1:17-18.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

We will take a closer look at verses 17 and 18 next week.

I appreciated what Dr. David Anderson wrote by way of application and in light of the imagery James has used here: I would like to make a suggestion that applies in this context and in this context alone:
Abortion and Infanticide are much to be desired in this context!
While Lust is conceiving and Sin is yet to be brought forth and born into sinful actions, that is the time to stop the growth and prevent the sin from ever being born into action in my life. The more we toy with something in our mind, the harder it is to resist it. The longer we allow it to remain there, the longer we allow our minds to feed on it, the stronger it becomes, until finally birth is inevitable.
We need to cut it off while there is opportunity to cut it off.
But then, failing to abort it, and Sin is born as a result of Lust, then kill it while it is still an infant! Confess it. Turn from it before it can mature and become fully developed. Because when it is full-grown, it will bring forth Death!

If God is the greatest Giver (of life), then it makes sense that Satan is the worst taker (of life).
In John 10:10, Jesus agrees ~ “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Satan cannot ever rob you of the gift of God, which is everlasting life. But in Satan’s vile hatred for Jesus, and therefore for you as God’s redeemed child, he will try to kill your testimony for Christ and destroy your experience of abiding in and fellowship with Christ and our Father.
He does so by tempting us to sin. When our lust bites the bait, which births sin, then sin grows and will inevitably give birth to death (physically – separation of soul/spirit from body; spiritually – a barrier that separates us from fellowship with our Father, and experiencing abundant life, or as James 1:12, a crowning experience of life) with consequences reaching even to eternity in terms of our gaining or losing capacity for future intimacy with and service to our coming King (eternal rewards).
Applications:
(1) Do not be deceived! Lust  Sin  Death [Consider the Consequences – think ahead
& “Choose Life!” To do this, we must renew our minds through the Word of God.
Let the Word perform a spiritual abortion on that Lust which is appealing to our thought life.

But what if we’re already making/we’ve made sinful choices–sin maturing/enslaving us?
(2) What is the antidote for this poisonous pursuit of our own sinful desires? Repent from the sin, turn from the error of our way (James 5:20) so sin gets cut off before it’s full-grown  thus saving the sinning believer’s life from a death-like experience or even physical death itself.
That would be the only good time for spiritual infanticide! Cut our sin off before it’s full grown!

 

 

 

 

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