Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Preached: January 22, 2012
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
One of the biggest challenges of living the Christian life can be dealing with temptation. Cathy and I have a saying, “I can resist anything except temptation”.
This is especially true for new believers. It can quickly become very frustrating to know that your sins are forgiven, but then find yourself bombarded with temptations to remain in your old sinful ways. Its all part of the maturing process of “sanctification” (becoming more like Christ). We know there are consequences, but the temptations can be difficult to resist.
Like the man who was shopping at a mall kiosk with his wife. A shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by and his eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item she was examining, his wife asked, “Was it worth the trouble you’re now in?”
I believe it was F.B. Meyer who once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are three things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that attacked him or her. And third, we do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
So as we discuss this issue of temptation today, try to resist the temptation to think how this message applies to other people you know . . . this message is for you.
In this passage, James does not just tell us to resist temptation, but gives us 3 tools we can use to battle the temptations.
- A Promise for those who endure temptation
- A Caution not to blame God for the temptation
- An Understanding of how sin develops so we can avoid it
Verse 12 promises us a blessing if we persevere through a temptation. And the blessing He gives us is The Crown of Life . . . that is eternal life . . . abundant life on this earth and in His heavenly kingdom. It is a crown which is rewarded for our good behavior. It is given as an award of achievement. There are no awards for simply being a participant in life. You must actually achieve results. It is not the results that save you, but when you have been saved, results ARE expected.
This is a common misunderstanding about God which we will be addressing in more depth in chapter 2. But just saying you are a believer and actually believing are two different things. If you are an AUTHENTIC believer, there will be some fruit of achievement in your life. At first not as much perhaps, but as you face more and more of these temptations over time, you will see maturing and growth in your ability to persevere. Producing good fruit is the demonstration of your love for God, but the fruit is not what saves you. When we say we have faith, we then get to prove that faith . . . we GET to, not HAVE to.
So God encourages us to persevere and He will reward us when we have stood the test. That is a great motivator!
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
Temptation has to do with our unholy desires, and God is purely Holy and has no unholy desires. 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. And because God has nothing to do with unholiness, He does not tempt people to unholiness. God does test and bring trials, but He does not use temptation to do it. He may allow circumstances to come into our lives which will help keep us closer to Him, but the temptation to sin is entirely in ourselves and in the demons who try to entice us away from God. God gives us only good gifts. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights
To keep us from being tricked and deceived by evil, James explains how temptation works so that we can build a defense against it. We know the enemy’s plan.
James tells us that sin develops in stages. The first stage is the temptation that uses our strong desire for something and dangles it in front of us as a lure or enticement to satisfy that evil desire inside us. There must be desire and there must also be the opportunity to satisfy that desire before temptation can have any power. It is like the boy who is tempted to steal some cookies from the cookie jar. First he has a desire for them, and then he looks around and sees he has an opportunity to steal them with no one noticing him.
Now, I want to stop here and remind us that temptation itself is not a sin. Even Jesus was tempted in the desert after fasting for 40 days. That is why the writer to the Hebrews says,
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.
Temptation CAN lead to sin, but it does not HAVE to lead to sin. It only become sin when the next stage is conceived in our minds. In other words, when we come up with a plan how to satisfy the temptation. Then the next stage is acting on that plan which we had already conceived. Desire, opportunity, plan, and action. It can happen in a flash or it can happen over a long period of time. Like 1st degree murder.
Now let’s also remember that this passage is being written to believers. James is assuming you do not want to sin. We see in most of our media on TV and movies and elsewhere that sin is actually promoted. They deal with the guilt of sin by calling sin good. The prophet Isaiah warned: Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
I saw on a TV commercial for a sitcom a guy proudly saying, “I would never consider having dinner with a woman until I have slept with her 3 times”. I guess that might be funny if it were not an obvious evil attempt to trivialize the sacred intimacy that was meant only for a husband and wife. It makes light of temptation and even says that giving in to it is a good thing!
So, if a person has not chosen Christ to atone for sin, they will experience the final stage of sin with separation from God which leads to eternal death. James tells us in verse 15 that sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
And Apostle John points this out as well in his book of Revelation: Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
Without forgiveness, that final stage of sin is eternal death. Praise be to God that we who are believers HAVE been forgiven because of the blood of Christ, and this last stage is short circuited and puts our names in the Lambs book of life . . . not death! Halleluiah! In this thought we can live joyfully and jubilantly! 2012 is going to be a year for joy and jubilation!
But BECAUSE we have been forgiven, our desires are changed from short term gratifications to a long term relationship with Jesus and living for Him. And understanding how sin develops makes us wiser in our resistance to temptation.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
So how can we help develop this process of changing our desires from selfish to Godly and renewing our minds? I am glad you asked. It begins by reading and understanding God’s Word. Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. . . .
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.
The more we study God’s word, the less likely we will fall to our desires and our temptations. Let me remind you again that this does not happen over night. It is a long term process of maturity in Christ.
There are also some common sense things we can do to avoid giving in to temptation. Since we now know that both desire AND opportunity must exist, we put boundaries in our lives that remove the opportunity. The police department that I work at in the evenings has cameras in every room. No matter where I am, someone is watching. That removes a lot of temptation to do something I shouldn’t do. Removing opportunity works.
Of course, prayer is a major factor also. When we are constantly in touch with God, He whispers into our minds what we should do. But we need to be able to hear his voice over the world, so we pray. By praying and confessing our temptations, He will intercede to help you through the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Prayer even asks God to keep us from temptation. Jesus Himself told Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane when they kept falling asleep:
Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
And finally, we can exercise good old fashioned self control. We can’t avoid every possibility for temptation, so when we are confronted with an unexpected temptation, we can exert some self control. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. James reminds us later in his book, James 4:7 Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
So, temptation is not itself sin, but it can lead to sin. We do not WANT to sin because of our love and gratefulness to God and therefore take steps to avoid sin by using God’s Word, and Prayer, and Common Sense, and as a last defense, our own self control.
As we leave this place, let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: 1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.