Last week we began our current series, PrACTical Christianity, a study of the book of James. We saw how James was written by Jesus’ half-brother who led the Church in Jerusalem. We also said this is one of, if not, the most practical books in the Bible. The messages are fairly universal and relevant 2000 years later.
The focus of much of the first chapter of James is the Greek word peirasmo/ß, (peirasmos) which means trial or test…or temptation. James tells us to “consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds” because they help us develop perseverance, grow, and mature. Although that’s not always much consolation in the midst of trials, it is encouraging to know that they serve a purpose, are meant for our ultimate good, and that God truly is in control, especially when we aren’t (which is always!).
Temptation began…in the Garden of Eden as Adam and Eve were tempted by satan to disobey God. Our enemy is real…and real crafty. Satan has no power to create, but he loves to distort and destroy God’s creation, including us.
It is important to realize that temptation is not sin. Many people feel guilty when they are tempted, yet it is possible to be tempted and not sin. Jesus proved this.
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. (Hebrews 4:15)
I love that verse! How many of you struggle with temptation? Jesus understands! He really does. He did not have a superpower sin shield that kept him from temptation. He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
When you are tempted, pray! Jesus understands!
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (James 1:13)
The Greek word for temptation is… peira¿zw, (peirazoœ). This is the same root as “trial” that we examined last week, but it has the emphasis of a trap. “The difference between a test and a temptation is found in the tester’s motivations and expectations; the devil tempts that the believer might fail God’s standards of faith and so sin; God tests that he might determine and sharpen true character, with no focus on making the believer fail.” (NIV Greek Dictionary)
What can we learn about God in this verse?
Who tempts? The devil or satan.
I found this helpful chart that shows the distinctions between God’s discipline, God-ordained trials, and God-allowed temptations (www.Acts 17-11.com).
|God, World, Satan||The Devil|
|Following God||Pride or Exposure|
HOW TO DISCERN
|Proves Faith||Leads Astray|
Make Light of
|Shrink Back||Fall into|
GOD IS SAYING
We are Sons
|His Name is in Us||The Flesh is Weak|
Fear and Holiness
|Death and Glory||Sin or Victory|
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:13-14)
Oswald Chambers said, "Until we are born again, [this is] the only temptation we understand. But by regeneration we are lifted into another realm where we face the kind of temptations Our Lord faced... Satan does not tempt us to do wrong things, he tempts us in order to make us lose... the possibility of being of value to God... Temptation is a suggested short-cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim--not at what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good... [At this point Satan] does not come along the line of tempting us to sin, but on the line of shifting the point of view, and only the Spirit of God can reveal this as a temptation of the devil."
Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (1:15)
Did you notice the progression?
Years ago a famous televangelist was caught, uh, with his pants down. I remember him saying, “I never thought it could happen to me.” That was his problem. He thought he was above the possibility of sin.
The crazy thing is that we all have healthy, God-given desires. Again, it’s satan that distorts those desires or gets us to seek their fulfillment in inappropriate ways.
Think about Adam and Eve. Did they need to eat? Yes. The question was not should they eat, but should they eat from that tree.
People don’t just wake up one day and do crazy things. Our prisons are not filled with people who randomly decided to kill or steal. There was a desire that grew into a sin and all sin ultimately leads to…death.
Romans 6:23 clearly affirms this.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are in the midst of a cosmic war between God and satan, good and evil.
C.S. Lewis: "No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means--the only complete realist."
Two Types of Sin
Perhaps you are feeling pretty good right now thinking you’ve resisted temptation, after all, you’ve never killed anyone! There are sins of commission—wrongful things that we commit or do—and sins of omission—things that we should do that we don’t. Honestly, that’s where I get in the most trouble. God draws me to prayer, yet I choose to ignore him and talk to a friend on the phone. He draws me to read the Bible, yet I choose to read blogs online. He draws me to give generously to others, yet I choose to spend money on myself.
And how does that sin lead to death? It kills the potential for a deeper relationship with God.
Perhaps you are feeling pretty bad right now thinking about how you’ve messed up. Here’s the good news!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Because Jesus endured temptation without sinning, His death on the cross allows Him to forgive us from ALL unrighteousness. Hallelujah!
When tempted, we should pray. Jesus knows, understands, and the Holy Spirit can fill us and help us in our struggle.
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
Understand that you’re not alone in being tempted. Everyone in this room faces it daily.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:8-10)
It’s so easy to become discouraged as we battle with sin, but don’t give up. Don’t ever give up! It’s worth the fight. It’s literally a fight for life, the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
We can also share our struggles with one another, encouraging one another when we have gained victory and even when we’ve blown it.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
The wisdom of Proverbs says
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7b)
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