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Dealing with Temptation (James 1:12-18)

James: Practical Christianity  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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While trials are utilized for our spiritual growth (James 1:1-12); sin prohibits our spiritual growth.

Notes
Transcript

Opening

Good morning friends and family. Thank you for joining me, I hope your week went well and for those of you that are quarantined, I hope you haven’t been going too stir crazy. I’ve been praying that this time of isolation for most of us has been a time of spiritual growth—that because of the lack of work and because of our social distancing efforts, that we’ve taken the time to turn back to God and turn back to prayer and the Bible. Even though the lack of work and the lack of social interaction has been concerning, it has been and will continue to be a tremendous time for us to just return to Jesus.

Scripture Reading

Psalm 1 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Prayer

Pray for those that are ill
Pray for essential workers
Pray for the reopening of our nation

Sermon

Recap and Introduction

For those that were unable to listen to Wednesday’s message, we just started a series that I hope will last until the quarantine ends, on the book of James. This past message, I spent a few minutes introducing the book—that it was written by James to Jewish believers that had been scattered abroad (possibly due to persecution). That the book itself is known as the “Proverbs of the New Testament,” because of its simplistic, wisdom-literature-esque writing that emphasizes at its core, practical Christianity. I introduced the book and then we jumped straight into Vs. 1-12, which is a statement about how different trials in life are utilized by God to mature us as believers—to make us complete and I even pointed out that James goes as far as to say that if we don’t understand how or why we’re going through difficulties in life, to pray for wisdom in faith and God would provide that wisdom for us.
Naturally, we don’t typically see trials in our lives as the best part of our life and yet, James tells us to “count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds.”
We ended the message on Wednesday, by taking a look at the crown of life and I explained that we don’t really have a lot of information about the crown of life; just that it is one of a few crowns that are awarded to believers and in this particular case, it is awarded to believer who “stand the test” and “love him.”
This morning, we’re actually continuing the line of thinking that follows from the idea of trials being utilized to mature us.
We’ll read James 1:12-18, I’ll pray and we’ll start breaking the passage down:
James 1:12–18 ESV
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
We’re going to look at this passage in three sections: Vs. 12, which we aren’t going to look at a ton this morning because we studied it out on Wednesday night, ties Vs. 13-18 to the previous twelve verses. It isn’t that it is unimportant, it’s very important, because it’s continuing the train of thought, but since we’ve already looked at it, I’m only including it this morning to remind us that these verses connect to the previous ones. Vs. 13-15, talks of the origin of sin and temptation and that God does not tempt anyone. Vs. 16-18, Reminds us of the goodness of God and that God is the source of all goodness.
Let’s Pray and we’ll jump straight in.

Transitional Information - James 1:12

Vs. 12, which we’ve already worked through Wednesday, provides a connecting piece to today’s section of Scripture.
As a reminder (since Vs. 13-18 connect with 1-12), let’s just look at what Vs. 12 states: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Now, remember with me, on Wednesday, we took time to study the first 12 verses, which gives a strong impression on how we’re to handle trials/difficulties in life. James tells us to be joyful anytime we have a trial in life, because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness; steadfastness when it has its full effect, makes us perfect and complete or the term that I utilized Wednesday, was mature.
So, this promise that’s given in Vs. 12 of a crown of life, is for those, who despite the difficulties of life, continue to endure.
Now, with this concept of enduring in hardship in our mind, let’s continue into Vs. 13-15
James 1:13–15 ESV
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The Origin of Sin and Temptation - James 1:13-15

Now James is continuing in this paragraph with this statement, that “when we are tempted” we aren’t to say that God is tempting us.
And the question really is, why is James making this statement?
And part of the reasoning as to why James is now talking about temptation, has to do with the word that’s being translated as “tempted” here. The word that’s translated as “tempted” comes from the same root word that we get the word “trial” in Vs. 2.
So, linguistically there’s a connection between the two words, but let me assure you that James isn’t talking about the same type of trial. There is a distinction here between outward trials that are caused by life being difficult in Vs. 2, to inner temptations like what is being spoken of in Vs. 13. What is being spoken of in Vs. 13, is the temptation to sin, which just like the trials listed in Vs. 2, make like difficult, but if we remain steadfast we will mature spiritually as believers.
So, James is making a distinction between outward and inner trials and our modern-day English translations do an excellent job at differentiating them. When James is speaking of outward difficulties of life, he utilizes the term “trial,” when he is speaking of inward sinful desire, he calls it “temptation” and we need to keep that in mind. What James is talking about in Vs. 13-15 is temptation to sin; not just difficulties in life.
James tells us to be joyful when we come to trials of various types and then he transitions into talking about temptations to sin. And you might be wondering if we should count it all joy when we face the temptation to sin. Well not necessarily, but we should count it all joy when we have victory over sin, but what do we typically do when life is difficult, even when we’ve won a battle against sin? If we’re actually fighting against sin in our lives, then we typically get upset with ourselves, we whine and we complain, and then we typically play the blame game. A perfect example of this is:
Adam and Eve, who were created and placed in a beautiful garden where the only things they have to do are to enjoy each other, tend and take care of the garden, and walk with God. Prior to Genesis 3, the world had not experienced the repercussions of sin, which means there was no illness, there was no pain, the work they were required to do for the garden was not tiresome (they had no external trials to face); and they lived the perfect life that we were all intended to have and yet the serpent convinced them that there was something better and they ate from the one tree that God told them not to eat from.
And in eating from that tree, they experienced the first great difficulty of their lives. They succumbed to sin and committed the first recorded sin and now they must pay the penalty for that sin. And when they were confronted by God for their sin, Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent, and by extension they both blame God.
Remember Genesis 3:12, “The man said, ‘the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’” Not only does Adam blame Eve, but he also blames God, “The Woman whom you gave to be with me.” Genesis 3:13b, “The Woman said, ‘the serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”
When the first humans are confronted with a difficult situation, they decide to blame each other and then blame God for their temptation.
And that is exactly what James is trying to prevent in James 1:13. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’” In other words, we are not to blame God for our temptations
Why? Because God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Why can’t we blame God?
Because his character doesn’t allow him to be tempted and
His character doesn’t allow him to utilize evil to tempt us
He is not the origin of temptation and there is nothing evil about that which concerns God.
James is drawing a distinction between having difficulties in life—facing trials in life, trials God utilizes to spiritually mature his children and the temptations that we all have to commit evil against God.
Now, some of you might have a question concerning this: doesn’t the Lord’s Prayer include a line asking God not to lead us into temptation?
Matthew 6:9-13, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Which logically, this seems to imply that if we’re asking God not to lead us into temptation, that God can indeed lead us into temptation.
But remember that the word that’s translated as trial and temptation in English is the same Greek word and since we know God cannot tempt us with evil, then this word in Matthew 6:13, doesn’t mean temptation in the manner of God leading us to be tempted with sin.
It has the idea of being spared some of the difficulties of life. The Lord’s Prayer is asking for us not to have difficulties
And just to stop you from asking, “But doesn’t James teach us to be joyful for trials?”
Yes it does, but James doesn’t say that we should try and make our lives difficult. James acknowledges that life is difficult and states that God is utilizing those difficulties to mature us and we should be joyous that God can make something seemingly bad into good.
It is perfectly fine, to ask God to spare our lives from difficulties; James is just telling us how we should behave when we’re in the midst of trials.
So even in the Lord’s prayer, when we ask God not to lead us into temptation; the Bible is not telling us that God can tempt us with evil, its simply asking God to hopefully keep the pressures of life at bay.
Naturally, our question then becomes, if God doesn’t tempt us with evil, than what does tempt us with evil?
And for those of us that have been Christians for any amount of time, our usual response is that Satan tempts us with evil. The demons tempt us with evil. And that is absolutely true
1 Peter 5:8 warns us to “be sober minded; be watchful. [our] adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devout”
When Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter in Acts 5, Peter says to Ananias, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”
And of course, we’ve already looked at Adam and Eve succumbing to sin after being convinced by the serpent.
So of course, Satan and the demons tempt us with evil
But that isn’t what James says here. James makes this statement about the temptation to sin, God does not tempt anyone
Vs 14, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
James is making the statement that this temptation comes from within, not from God.
And this temptation comes when we are lured and enticed by our own desire.
And I want to stop just briefly, to talk about desire—not all desire is bad. There are some people that seem to think that all desire is bad, but remember that God created desire, but we have to be careful to know that our desires are from God and not a desire to replace God with sin or with idolatry.
Psalm 37 tells us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, that he will give us the desires of our heart. So, obviously desire itself is not bad. In fact, that same Psalm 37, tells us to commit our ways to the Lord; trust in him and He will do this: he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
The issue is that our sin nature that comes from Adam, bends our hearts and our minds to desire things that God is not in—Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, [and] slander.”
Desire itself is not wrong; it is the object of our desire that makes desire right or wrong.
And in the instance of James 1:14, the desire is for evil. Desire in the instance of James 1:14, when it has conceived, or when that desire has really taken hold, it gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James is intentionally utilizing the idea of birth, growth, and maturation as a contrast between spiritual maturity as a result of being steadfast in the faith and death as a result of succumbing to sin.
The death that sin brings is to stand in stark contrast to the spiritual maturity, the perfection and completion that staying steadfast in the faith brings.
And that stark contrast is a point that James is trying to make very clear:
Following Jesus leads to perfection and completeness
Rejecting Jesus and following sin will always lead to death
The Bible has been clear on the consequences of sin since before Adam and Eve committed the first sin, remember?
Genesis 2:16, God tells Adam and Eve that they can eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
That sin was then passed on to every other person—it is what we call original sin, but not only did sin pass on to all men, but the consequence of sin passed to all, Romans 5:12, explains how that all works, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
And yet, James doesn’t leave it there, in Vs. 16-18, he expounds on the goodness of God:
James 1:16–18 ESV
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

The Goodness of God and the Source of All Goodness - James 1:16-18

Vs. 16, starts with “Do not be deceived, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
The phrase “Do not be deceived” is tying this back to his previous statement that we cannot blame God for our temptation to sin. Not only, does God not tempt us because he can’t be tempted, but everything good that we have is from him.
So when the Bible says every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, it’s making a fairly bold statement, that God is responsible for all that good and he is the source of all that good
Kurt Richardson, “The gifts of God are good because they never foster evil desire or sin. The gifts of God are perfect because they are the fulfillment of his will for his people.”
Now, when we think of a gift from God, we’re typically talking about salvation, because salvation is a free gift from God in which God has taken care of all of the requirements of salvation and we just repent from sin and believe in Him.
But this verse is actually talking about more than just salvation—I can tell that from the fact that the Bible isn’t being exhaustive when it talks about trials and temptations, which means it probably isn’t being exhaustive when it talks about good gifts from God
So yes, salvation is a good gift from God
But everything that we know to be good comes from God too—for instance, we’re created in the image of God, that is a good gift; God is a creative being, which means that as a person created in the image of God, we are also creative.
That means, the very idea of being creative is a good gift from God.
People utilize creativity to write music, paint, design, and craft beautiful works of art, which if you think about it, the fact that we can appreciate the beauty of music, art, and design is a good gift from God.
The Bible says every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, which is a unique name of God.
It probably refers to God as being the creator of lights—which would being referencing that he is the creator of heavenly lights—the stars, which could be reminding these Jewish people of Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God” or it could remind them of Genesis 1, that God created the sun and the moon.
All of which, the sun, the moon, and the stars are good gifts from him. Which the fact that he created a good creation tells us that he himself is good.
As an additional reminder James states that God has no variation or shadow due to change—which simply means, God has always been good, he is good, and he will continue to be good.
In a time period where everything is constantly changing—technology improves at exponential rates, children grow older, and people change
The one constant, is God himself. God does not change which is yet, another good gift. Unlike the pagan gods of Rome and Greece, Yahweh does not change, he remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.
And then James ends this paragraph, with Vs. 18, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Which points to the goodness of God in bringing us the word of truth, which refers to the Bible and more specifically to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in order that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Which means that he intentionally brought us this word of truth in order for us to be redeemed. This might remind you of Romans 8:19-24 — “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
In his own goodness, he has made for us a way for us to be adopted as his children through the redemption that Christ affords us on the cross.

What is Sin? — Before Application

Some of you, when I was talking about sin, might have been a little unsure of what sin is, so let’s start with that: what is sin?
We typically tell children in Sunday School that it is anything that we think, say, or do that offends God; which is probably the best way to explain it to a child, but that statement is a little vague in some aspects.
We could go with the theological answer to what sin is: and that would be that sin is a transgression against the law of God. Which simply means that we’ve broken the law, we’re guilty before the judge, and we deserve punishment for the breaking of the law.
And you might be wondering, “how do I know if I’ve broken a law?” and you can go through and read all of the Old Testament and find the hundreds of laws given to the Israelites, but if you’re familiar with the Bible, you might say, “but we’re not under the Old Covenant, we’re under the new covenant.” Which is true, in which case, I would point you to: Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” and then he goes on to tell us that in some cases of the law, he has actually clarified the meaning, “you’ve heard it said that thou shalt not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment, but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” and even, “you have heard it was said, you shall not commit adultery, but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery.”
So sin is succumbing to our desire to do what God’s law has told us not to.
And sin is the key issue in our lives that separates us from God—God is holy and pure and because of his holiness, he cannot be in the presence of sin.
Why does sin entice us?
Usually sin is enticing to us because it provides momentary pleasure. People rob other people, because the money or objects they obtain provide pleasure. People hurt other people, because the perpetrator has pleasure in doing so.
A lot of times, sin entices us because we’ve listened to lies from the devil. Remember in Genesis 3, the serpent tells Adam and Eve essentially that God is lying to them; they won’t actually die if they eat of the tree? He twists God’s words in order to convince Adam and Eve to follow their desire. He continues to do that today—we fall into the trap of thinking that sin isn’t really that bad; we can get away with it, no problem. But the Bible tells us that all sin leads to death; even if we momentarily get away with it.
Satan has plenty of tricks in which he convinces us that good things that God has promised us aren’t actually worth the wait. And so we sin to receive that momentary pleasure.
Sin entices us because sin is rooted in our desire (James 1:14)
And yet, the passage in James 1 is telling is to remain steadfast under trial, which includes the temptation to sin.
So James recognizes that we will be tempted to sin and yet, we’re still told to remain steadfast.

Application:

Which means this, as our first application point, we must first recognize what is and then we must do what Proverbs 1:10 says, “If sinners entice you, do not consent.”
We must study the word of God in order to know what sin actually is—Paul writes that the law brings knowledge of sin and James will later go on to say that if we’re guilty of breaking one law, we’re guilty of breaking them all.
We must recognize what sin is in order to fight against our temptations
We must recognize that on this side of eternity, we will always be tempted to sin
And yet, that isn’t God’s fault, it is a result of our inward desire
And we must recognize that we’re being tempted to sin
In order for us to reject the sin
Since we are human and we will always have difficulties with sin on this side of eternity, what does that mean?
Keep fighting against sin
But when you do sin, because you will—don’t try to hide it, don’t try to pretend like you didn’t sin
But repent from your sin
and turn to Jesus
In some cases, we have what is called a life-besetting sin—these are sins that people struggle with almost chronically and it typically requires the help of others to break away from these sins:
Addiction (the abuse of drugs and alcohol; pornography; etc.) — Miracle Hill Overcomers Center, Reformers Unanimous, etc.
Even issues of unrighteous anger can be chronic in that its a lifelong process of learning to deal with unrighteous anger
And in all of these life-besetting sin issues, for most people, the key is to seek help from other people.
That might look like rehab or it might look like a support group
It may just look like finding someone who is spiritually mature (someone who might struggle with the same sin, but has seen victory over it) and just asking for that person to keep us accountable.
Regardless, the process is the same—repent from your life-besetting sin and turn to Jesus—even if it means humbling yourself and getting help from others.
Recognize that God is always good
Sometimes we get caught up in the greatness of God—he is the creator God, the Father of lights, that provides every breath that we breathe
Or we get caught up in his holiness—that he is utterly and completely separated not only from sin, but from all creation because he was not created.
And then we neglect to consider how good of a God he is—God is only ever good
Which means that we can only ever expect him to do good things
And we can only ever expect good from him
He is a good God
Which means that everything that he gives us is good.
And we should be thankful that our God is only ever good—we should count it all joy that even when we struggle in temptations—our only ever good God has given us a means of forgiveness, salvation, and a way to connect with him.
And it is this goodness that ought to motivate us to seek after him, to love him, and to continue our journey of faith with him.
Today’s application is fairly simple:
Remember that our God is always good and that motivates us to reject the temporary pleasures of sin and to seek our God who is always good. Reject sin and follow Jesus.
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