January 24, 2016 – manuscript

Four Realities about Temptation.

This week, James forces us to address temptation and the implications it has on our lives.  You have wondered what the difference is between trials and temptations because they are similar.  In fact, both words are translated from the same Greek word.  The context and result is what changes the meaning.  A trial is an opportunity for growth of character and spiritual maturity.  A temptation causes a willingness to disobey God and deny His voice in our lives.

In 2011, a study tracked the top temptations Americans face.  The top ten answers are on the board.[1]

  1. Worrying or being anxious—60 percent
  2. Procrastinating or putting things off—60 percent
  3. Eating too much—55 percent
  4. Spending too much time on media—44 percent
    1. one in nine American admit to expressing their anger digitally.
  5. Being lazy—41 percent
  6. Spending more money than they could afford—35 percent
  7. Gossiping about others—26 percent
  8. Being jealous or envious of others—24 percent
  9. Viewing pornography or sexually explicit material—18 percent
  10. Abusing alcohol or drugs—11 percent
  • 59% of those surveyed said they don’t do anything to avoid the temptation and half admitted they don’t know why.

Pastor Todd Hunter (who conducted the study) said, “There’s no agreement on what sin is.  It’s one of the aspects of the world we live in. It’s becoming more relativistic. It’s hard to talk about sin when everyone disagrees about what it is.”

Submitting to temptation allows sin to run its course in our lives.

Sin is like any natural disaster that brings devastation on any family or community.  It’s runs its course and becomes unstoppable.  It ruins so many things in the process.  Every time we fall out of alignment with the Bible, we have sin in our lives.

Scripture Text: James 1:13-18 (ESV) – 13Let 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. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  16Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  17Every 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.  18Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Submitting to temptation is not God’s fault

Scripture Text: James 1:13 (ESV) – 13Let 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.

Verse 13 very directly says when we are solicited to sin, it is not God’s fault.  When we accuse God of tempting us, we say two things.  1) God isn’t as holy as Scripture declares and 2) God doesn’t care about our holiness.  Isaiah 6:3 tells us, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.”  Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor”.  1 Peter 1:16 quotes Leviticus 11:44 and says, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  God desire is for His holiness to invade our lives.  There is no way that God is going to solicit any of us to sin.  It’s not possible.  God is not capable of pushing us toward sinful acts.  It’s not his fault.

Submitting to temptation is my fault and will lead to death

Scripture Text: James 1:14-15 (ESV) – 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Verse 14 shows us that IT’S MY FAULT.  Say that out loud.  IT’S MY FAULT.  Look at the person next to you and tell them IT’S MY FAULT.  Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  The NIV says beyond cure, meaning the road our thoughts and feelings travel is terminally ill.  Here’s how James 1:14 translates from the Greek to my paraphrase – “Each person is solicited to sin when he/she is seduced and thrown bait by his/her own craving for what is forbidden.”  Verse 15 continues, “Your craving takes you prisoner until it produces a violation.  The accomplished and perfected violation produces death.”

Let me say it another way.  Desire leads to deception.  Deception leads to design.  Design leads to disobedience, which is sin.  Here’s what that means.  Temptation happens when internal thoughts intersect with external actions.  Temptation happens when we have begun to compromise within our thoughts.  Temptation happens when Satan thinks he can convince us to take action on something we are already thinking about doing.

Several years ago I was talking to another pastor about alcohol.  Both of us had mentioned that we had never consumed.  I wondered if he had Biblical reasons for it and his response was this, “Satan can’t tempt me with something that’s not inside of me.”  The principle is this ~ if we don’t know what something tastes like, we can’t crave it.  If we can’t crave it, we can’t be seduced by it.  If we can’t be seduced by it, we can’t be tempted by it.  If we can’t be tempted by it, it will not produce death inside of us.

How do we know what something taste like?  Matthew 15:18-19 says, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”  Whatever we allow to enter our thought process is what gives us a taste for something.  What we view or watch; what we listen to; what we touch; what we taste; what we smell ~ anything that is experienced by one of our five senses gives us a taste.  That taste is able to turn into craving.  Satan uses that craving any way he is able.

Here’s a new flash…Satan hates us.  His desire is to destroy us.  That’s why 1 Peter 5:8 says that “Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The application question is this, “What tastes are you allowing to enter your thoughts that Satan will use against you?”

Entertaining temptation produces conflict.

Scripture Text: James 1:16-18 (ESV) – 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  17Every 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.  18Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

While Satan wants to write a story of destruction for your life; God desires to write a story that is good and perfect.  The conflict of temptation is that it looks good.  We want to justify allowing the temptation to camp out in our thoughts for a while.  After a period of time, we demand the right to redefine what “good” is and then we expect God to honor our definition.  The conflict rises because verse 17 tells us that God has no variation.  When we show characteristics of a double-minded man, God does not conform.  The text tells us that God has no variation and does not change.  God is not unstable in all of his ways.  Unfortunately, Christians want God to do in order to justify submitting to temptation.

Verse 18 tells us that God’s plan is always to produce holiness within us.  The text calls it a kind of “firstfruits”; that word means “all who are loyal to God and all who develop into what God calls us to be.”  If submitting to temptation begins inside of us, then producing holiness also begins inside of us.  We have a daily choice of submitting to the production of holiness or the production of death.  When we submit to the production of holiness in our lives we allow Ezekiel 36:25-27 to be exercised in our lives.  “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

The questions that we must ask ourselves are these:

  1. Are you currently allowing temptation to create devastation in your life?
  2. Are you blaming God for something that you need own?
  3. Of the things that you allow your senses to interact with, which ones produce holiness and which one give space to Satan?

[1] Our Favorite Sins: The Sins We All Commit and How You Can Quit by Todd Hunter