************ Sermon on James 1:13-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 17, 2006
"Lead Us Not into Temptation"
Topic: TemptationThis is a parable of Christians in the hot water of temptation and sin. Sometimes the water heats up so gradually we don't notice what is happening to us.
Title: Hot Water And The Frog
There is a laboratory experiment often carried out, in which a frog is placed in water heated at the rate of .0036 of a degree F per second and in which, although it never moves, at the end of two and half hours the frog is found to be dead. The explanation for this is that the water is heated so gradually that the frog never becomes aware of the rising temperature and is boiled to death without a struggle. If you were to drop him suddenly into hot water he would splash it all over the place and probably be able to jump out.
I When Tempted
A Our Bible reading today starts with the phrase, "When tempted ..." Notice, James does not say, "If tempted ..." James knows better than that. James knows temptation is inevitable. James knows that in this life and on this earth and in this body temptation is unavoidable.
Don't forget, James is writing to servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is writing to true and sincere Christians who have been persecuted and scattered for their faith. So, these are not temporary Christians. These are not pretend Christians. They have actually put their lives on the line for the Gospel. Yet, James says to these real and sincere Christians, "When tempted ..." We are being told here that servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter how real and sincere their faith, are tempted.
Notice how James puts it in the very next verse. He says, "but each one is tempted ..." (James 1:14).
In the life of the Christian, temptation is as real and inevitable as death and taxes. We will never be without temptation. Never. We are certainly in for a big surprise if we think that when we become a Christian all our old struggles and temptations will be automatically and instantly left behind.
The Christian life is a life of conflict and struggle. That is what James is saying to us this evening. Servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ are in a fight, a spiritual battle. Even though Christians around us may not appear to be wrestling with temptation, Scripture tells us that is not actually the case – you, me, and every Christian around you struggles with temptation. Temptation plays no favorites. Temptation strikes us all. Temptation hits us at home, at work, at school, at the mall, everywhere we go. And all the time.
B The Greek word for "temptation" in our Bible reading is the same Greek word James used in verse 2 for "trials." Trials and temptations are very similar to each other. They both cause hurt and pain and struggle. However, trials are meant to be positive, they are meant to bring out our good points; God allows them so we can mature in the faith. Temptations, on the other hand, are meant to be negative, they are meant to bring out our bad points; they come from Satan or those around us so we will fall into sin.
Think of Ralph Nader and General Motors both running a test on the same car. Ralph Nader runs the tests to bring out the bad traits of the car. G.M. runs the tests to point out the good traits.
C We all realize that God allows things to come into our lives that test our faith. After all, He tested Abraham by commanding him to offer up Isaac (Gen 22). Job is well known for the testing of his faith through many difficult circumstances. Even the Lord Jesus was tested (Mk 1:12-13).
Because we are sinners, we may not face testing all that well. When we face financial difficulties we may be tempted to seek ill-gotten gains. When our marriage is in trouble we may be tempted to seek a divorce or have an affair. When our life is filled with failure we may be tempted to tell one lie after another to make ourselves look and feel better. When we become depressed we may be tempted to abuse alcohol or drugs.
"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me."" Yes, God does allow our faith to be tested. But, if we are tempted to do evil as a result, then God is never the source. Servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians with true and authentic faith, recognize that though God allows the trials to come, the desire to break His law is never from Him. "For God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does he tempt anyone" (James 1:13).
A misunderstanding of God's providence, of God's sovereignty, leads some hyper-Calvinists to the opposite conclusion. Their logic is clear: If God is supreme over all, controls everything that happens to us, and works out "everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Eph 1:1), then He certainly must be behind our sin and the temptations we experience. Drive this logic far enough and God becomes responsible for the sin and evil in our lives.
God's precise relationship to sin is mysterious. God has ordained all that ever happens, including evil. Yet God is not the originator of evil or even the temptations that lead to evil. We must never blame God for our sin or temptations. Rather, God is the source of every good and perfect gift and therefore cannot sin (James 1:16-17).
We humans have a tendency to want to blame someone else when we fall into temptation. We try to blame God. We try to blame our parents – our genes and chromosomes. We try to blame the social environment we grew up in – poverty, racism, lack of work, marriage problems in the home. When Adam and Eve fell into temptation in the Garden of Eden, remember what Adam and Eve said? Adam said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it" (Gen 3:12). Then Eve said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Gen 3:13).
But we cannot blame God. And, we cannot blame our parents. And, we cannot blame the social environment.
D Who do we blame, then? Who is responsible when we fall into temptation? James points the finger at you and at me. We are responsible for our own failings and falls. We need to take ownership of our temptations and sin. "Each one is tempted ... by his own evil desire," says James (James 1:14). But we don't like to do this. We don't like to take personal responsibility for handling temptation.
One three-year-old had this explanation for being caught in the kitchen atop a chair, eating cookies: "I just climbed up to smell them, and my tooth got caught." In other words, "Don't blame me!"
Temptation does not come from God, and it is not God's fault when we give in to it. Proverbs says, "A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD" (Prov 19:3). When we fall into temptation we have no one to blame but ourselves.
James is telling us this evening that servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ take personal responsibility for handling temptation.
II Temptation is a Process
A Temptation is more than just a one-time event. James tells us that temptation is a process. Temptation follows a very consistent pattern. Listen to this pattern:
(James 1:14-15) 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.Do you see the pattern? Desire, deception, disobedience, death.
The pattern begins with "evil desire." Now, God has made us with many normal desires – for food, drink, sleep, sex, companionship, love, respect, music, and so on. Many of these desires keep us alive and healthy. But desires can become twisted. The desire for food can turn into gluttony. The desire for sleep can become laziness. The desire for sex can turn into adultery or pornography. The desire for respect can turn into pride.
It is twisted desires, what James calls "evil desires," that lead into temptation.
B The next part of the pattern is deception. Deception makes twisted desires seem more alluring then they really are. James uses illustrations from hunting and fishing to make this point. He talks of those "dragged away and enticed" (James 1:14). "Dragged away" refers to baiting a trap. "Enticed" literally means to "bait a hook." The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap and no fish will knowingly bite a bare hook. The idea is to disguise the trap and the hook.
Temptation always includes some bait that appeals to our natural desires. The bait not only attracts us, but it also disguises the sorrow and punishment that will surely come. Sin might promise pleasure, but in the end it only delivers pain.
C The third part of the pattern is disobedience. Says James, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin" (James 1:15). What starts as a legitimate desire becomes an evil desire. The evil desire is dressed up to look good. This evil desire then begins to germinate within us; it grows and develops; eventually it leads to the birth of sin.
D Finally, the last part of the pattern is death. There is no future in sin. Don't forget what Paul says, "The wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23).
Desire, deception, disobedience, death. That is the pattern followed by temptation. It can start off so innocent, it can look so harmless, but it can imprison us in a moment. That's why James says, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers" (James 1:16). Don't be fooled. Don't fall for the lies of sin and Satan.
III Temptation can be Conquered
A The example of Jesus tells us that temptation in and of itself is not a sin and does not necessarily lead to sin. Jesus was "tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin," says Hebrews (Heb 4:15). Temptation is simply the invitation to sin. We sin when we decide to accept the invitation. Jesus was invited to sin, just as we are, but Jesus always refused the invitation. Again and again He referred the Devil to the Scriptures: "It is written ..." Every time Jesus faced temptation He threw the Bible in the Devil's face. Every time Jesus faced temptation He looked to the Word for guidance and strength.
Jesus had the same desires we have. But He did not sin. So, how is Jesus different than you and me? How did He succeed when we did not? We have to say that Jesus did not let legitimate desires become evil desires. In the life of Jesus the process of temptation was stopped dead in its tracks. In the life of Jesus desire was not allowed to become twisted. In the life of Jesus desire was not allowed to deceive. In the life of Jesus desire was not allowed to become disobedience. In the life of Jesus desire was not allowed to lead to death.
B What was true for Jesus can be true for you and me as well. Temptation does not have to lead to sin. It is possible to conquer temptation – though we have to admit that in this life and on this earth and in this body we will never be perfect. However, we do not have to fall into temptation. Servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ face temptation but they don't have to fall into temptation.
What is the solution? What is the answer? How can we be more like Jesus? How can we conquer temptation? Like Jesus, we need to know the Word. But, we also need to look to Jesus.
Topic: TemptationYes, that is good advice. God, of course, will not tempt us to do wrong. However, we do encounter many temptations, and if we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus – instead of on the temptations – we will be able to overcome them.
Title: Don't Look At That Which Tempts
Leslie Dunkin told about a dog he had when he was a boy. Periodically his father would test the dog's obedience. He would place a tempting piece of meat on the floor and give the command, "No!" The dog, who must have had a strong urge to go for the meat, was placed in a most difficult situation -- to obey or disobey his master's command.
Dunkin said, "The dog never looked at the meat. He seemed to feel that if he did, the temptation to disobey would be too great. So he looked steadily at my father's face." Dunkin then made this spiritual application: "There is a lesson for us all. Always look up to the Master's face."
C Look to God. Look to Jesus. That is the secret to overcoming temptation.
Topic: ChristThat's one mistake we don't have to make. We can fix our eyes on God Who never changes. He is the "Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows," says James (James 1:17). And His Word does not change too.
Subtopic: Divinity of
Abraham Lincoln once told of a farmer trying to teach his son how to plow a straight furrow. He told the boy to keep his eyes on some object at the other end of the field and plow straight for it. The boy started plowing and the farmer went about his chores. When he returned after several hours to check on the boy's progress, he was shocked to find instead of straight rows something that looked like a question mark. The boy had obeyed his father's instructions. He had fixed his eyes on something at the other side of the field -- a cow. Unfortunately, the cow had moved!
Evidently, that father forgot to tell his son to look for a fixed object, one that wouldn't shift or move around.
There are two kinds of trials. Both kinds hurt. But one kind makes us mature in the faith. The other kind makes us fall into sin.
This tells me that the evil of a trial does not lie in its hurt or in its pain or in its discomfort. The evil of a trial lies in the choice to do wrong. The evil of a trial lies in my choice to distance myself from God. The evil of a trial lies in my choice to fall into temptation and sin and death.
However, when servants of God and the Lord Jesus Christ look to God in Christ, then their trials draw them closer to instead of away from God.
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