Kill Temptation Before It Kills You (James Sermon 2)
January 19, 2020 | Andrew Davis
It is exciting to be able to be with you a week later, as Andy said, to be at a higher level. Grateful to be way up here with you folks, and to be able to share how exciting it is to see what God is doing in our church.
Turn in your Bibles to James 1, as we continue our study in the Book of James. This morning we will look at the deadly power of temptation. One of the things a healthy church will do is equip each member for spiritual warfare. You have come this morning to an armory of truth, so that you have instruction in the Word of God to put on spiritual armor and so that you are equipped to fight — and fight you must. All of us will be assaulted this week by the world, the flesh and the devil. It is inevitable; it will come. The best thing that I can do this morning is to equip you to fight.
In Greek mythology there were creatures named sirens. They were half-bird and half-woman and lived near rocky shoals and cliffs of islands. They had the deadly skill of singing so enticingly and so alluringly that they could lure sailors to sail their ships too close to the rocky shoals, because they were drawn in by the beauty of the music, and so they would dash themselves and their ships to pieces. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus had heard about this alluring siren song. He wanted to hear it but did not want to endanger his ship, so he commanded his men to lash himself to the mast and then that each of his sailors would fill their ear with wax so that they would not themselves be enticed. In this way, he hoped to hear the song of the sirens.
This intoxicating pull toward shipwreck is an illustration from myth and legend of an actual spiritual danger that each one of us faces as Christians in this world, the danger of temptation. We walk every single day on a path surrounded by various siren songs. Satan has crafted a world system and assaults us with the temptations of the world and his own crafty temptations. And we have the enemy within, our own lust, which the text will focus on, which responds to those alluring songs.
It is human nature for all of us to blame others for our sins, to escape taking responsibility for our sins, to look for a scapegoat, a fall guy. This is obviously unjust and corrupt and weak on our part. But worst of all, worse than blaming other people, is to blame God for our temptations and for our sins. This happened from the very beginning, the first sin that Adam fell into, when he ate fruit from the forbidden tree. The first sin that happened after that was the sin of blame-shifting. God confronted Adam and said, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from it?” In Genesis 3:12, “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’” At that point he is blaming not only Eve, the woman, for his sin, but he is ultimately blaming God. We are world-class excuse makers for our own corruptions — like a thief blaming his economic situations for his thieving, or a serial rapist blaming his abusive father for his career in crime. It is even worse when we do it to God.
The book of Proverbs makes this tendency clear in Proverbs 19:3, which says, “A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.” Isn’t that a powerful proverb? We do damage to our own lives and then we turn around and blame God for it. We are constantly surrounded by the forces that are pulling on our bodies — physical forces like gravity, pulling us down, or force of moving objects that smash into us, or deflect us from our course, or the force of atmospheric pressure (14.7 pounds per square inch) pushing on us at every moment. The force of temptation pulling us toward evil and toward death is a significant spiritual force that we must combat in our journey of salvation. It is like a magnetic pull that lures us to our deaths. In James 1:13-18, James helps us to understand the true origin of our temptations. It is not coming from the pure heart of God; rather, it comes from within ourselves. God wants us to take responsibility for our own temptations, and to kill them before they kill us. He does this by teaching us the true nature of temptation.
God Never Tempts Us
Tested vs. Tempted
The first point is this: God never tempts us. James 1:13 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” We come immediately in verse 13, in the Greek language, to a difficult word and an issue between being tested and being tempted. What is amazing is the Greek word is the same, so you must look at the context. We were just told in James1:2 that we face trials of many kinds. That is the same Greek word. Verse 12 uses it again. God does in fact test us and He does put us through trying circumstances. The testing of our faith, we are told, develops perseverance. It purifies our faith, it strengthens us, makes us more purely devoted to God. Temptations however are something else altogether, and we have to make a distinction. A temptation is a magnetic attraction toward evil, a pulling toward wickedness.
There are many examples of temptation in the Bible. We think about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, how day after day, she sought to persuade him to have sex with her, day after day to allure him, even grabbing him by the garment at one point. In Proverbs chapter 7, it seems like Solomon is looking down into the streets of the city and sees a young man through the lattice, a young man he says is lacking sense, not aware of what war zone he is about to walk into. An alluring seductress, crafty and with deceitful intent and dressed in an enticing manner, emerges. She says, "My husband has taken a big bag of money and will be gone until the full moon. It will be a long time, and I have fulfilled my vows to God today.” (Meaning, “I have some meat that I can offer, the very thing that you want.”) She allures and persuades him. It says in Proverbs 7:21-23, “With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.”
That is a case study of seduction, of allurement. Proverbs 1 speaks of the same thing with a different sin, where highway robbers are enticing a man’s son, saying, “Hey come on, join us in laying wait for someone and we will share a common purse.” It is a different example of seduction.
We have all of these examples of allurement and temptation, but the text says, “Do not ever say God is doing that to me.” God is no seductress; He does not seduce us toward evil or allure us toward wickedness. He never does this. God definitely tests us, like he tested Abraham to see the strength of his faith and to develop his faith. And he orchestrates circumstances to test us, that is true. But he never seduces us toward the thing that He hates with a perfect hatred.
The Perfect Purity of God
Verse 13 says, “God cannot be tempted by evil…” The basic nature of evil is as far from the perfect purity of Almighty God as we can imagine. It is as far as the east is from the west. It is as far as one end of the universe is from the other, which cosmologists tell us is 47 billion light years across. God is further from wickedness and evil than that. It says in Habakkuk 1:13, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” Even better for our purposes, 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” It is a double negative in the Greek. There is not the tiniest particle of evil in God, ever. He is not divided within His nature; He is perfectly one, perfectly light all the time. But we are deeply divided. To the core of God’s being, He is light. And in the core of His being, there is no darkness at all.
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, talks about the machinery of corrupt religion going on in Israel at the time. He says in Isaiah 1:14, “Your appointed feasts my soul hates.” It is a very interesting expression, the soul of God. God does not have a soul any more than He has a hand or eyes or feet. These are what theologians call anthropomorphism, but they help us to understand the nature of God. When He says, “My soul hates it,” it means to the core of His being, He hates evil and wickedness.
The Holiness of God
The holiness of God may be the single most important attribute for us in our sinfulness to understand. We have the account of the call of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 6:1-3, where it says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. [One theologian said, “Notice that four of the six wings of the six-winged Seraph are given toward some acknowledgement of the holiness of God.” And these are beings that have never sinned, never rebelled’ they are perfectly holy themselves, separate from evil, but they still have a sense of the intense holiness of God. It is the most important attribute because they cry aloud, to each other,] ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” It is the only attribute of God which is repeated three times: Holy, holy, holy. God is perfectly separated from evil. It is the essence, then, of the saving work He does in us to get us to be holy because He is holy.
God Never Tempts Anyone
Therefore, verse 13 says, “God is not tempted by evil.” There is nothing inside God that is attracted to wickedness or darkness at all. Nor does He tempt anyone. Evil has no allure from God, does not pull on His heartstrings; he is not attracted to it. Therefore, He is not singing some siren song to get us to divert from His path of righteousness and disobey His commands. That does not ever come from God.
You may be thinking, “What about the Lord's Prayer?” We are told to pray in Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” You prayed that for years and now you may be wondering if there is a problem with that verse, thinking, “If God never tempts us toward evil, then why do we have to ask Him to not lead us into temptation?” In prayer, we are not rolling out something that we have no idea what God thinks about it. Prayers are always informed Biblically. When we pray with the Psalmist “May the glory of the Lord endure forever,” we do not think, “Not sure whether it will or not, but may it happen. Hope it does."
Friends, that is not how prayer works. We learn instead from the Lord’s prayer that God hates evil and we pray, “May you O Lord, continue to hate it as you will, and continue to lead me in such a way that I am not tempted.” But really in the end it comes back to us, doesn’t it? It teaches us, reminds us of the holiness of God and of our own susceptibility to temptation, like this text is teaching. It helps us to pray, “Oh God, that we would not lead ourselves into temptation or put ourselves in tempting situations or walk like we are blockheads and have no idea what is going on and find ourselves trapped when we should not be.” That is the way I understand, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
God ALLOWS Satan to Tempt Us... But He Governs It Carefully
God does permit the evil one, Satan, to tempt us — and he does tempt us. However, we have already learned from 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “…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.” Look, oh dear friends, look for that way of escape every time. Say, “Oh God, allow me to stand firm in this hour of temptation. I do not want to cave in.”
The True Origin of Temptation: Our Lusts
The second outline point is that the true origin of temptation is our own lust. Look at Verse 14, “…each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Our temptations come from our own lust, our own evil desires.
Our Temptations Come from Our Own Lusts (Evil Desires)
We were made in the image of God to be filled with desires. It is a good thing to have desire and a defect to have no desire in life at all. We were made to have desires, not just weak but passionate desires. God is filled with passionate desires. Given our physical nature we will have normal physical desires, but sin corrupts the normal desires and pushes them beyond boundaries that God has set up. Thus, desire becomes lust, which is the origin of our temptation. For example, we have a desire for food. There is nothing wrong with that and everything right with that. But the sin nature, the flesh, pushes it beyond boundaries into gluttony. We have the desire for rest — we need rest. The sleep of a laborer is pleasant to his soul, and God gives sleep to those that He loves. This is a good gift, but the flesh pushes it beyond normal boundaries, so that we become the sluggard: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.” [Proverbs 26:14] (I love the Proverbs about the sluggard. What an interesting individual he is.) Here he is intoxicated by sleep; he just cannot get enough.
The desire for marital relations is normal. God put it in all normal men and women to have sexual relations within covenant marriage. But the sin nature of the flesh pushes that into forbidden territories which becomes sexual lust, which corrupts. We all must deal with the enemy within. In Romans Chapter 7, Paul unfolds the battle that all of us will have the rest of our lives. We have an enemy within. Paul says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. .As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”
Sin is a disgusting virus, worse than any parasite living inside us. Paul continues, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Someday, dear friends, we will be delivered from this body of death. In heaven, we will not have any struggle with lusts.
If you are a genuine Christian, genuinely born again, you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, yearning for that day when you will never sin again. It will come and you will be released. If you should die before the second coming of Christ, you will be among those who are absent from the body, present with the Lord. It says in Hebrews that you will be the spirits of the righteous made perfect and you will never have an evil thought or desire again. You will be completely conformed to Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, while you are in this body in this present world, you must fight and seek the deliverance that only God can give. Paul continues, “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” This is sin living in us.
Enticed by Lust
James describes it forcefully. Each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, his own lust, he is, as the NIV says, “dragged away” and “enticed.” I find that an interesting reversal, but we could say enticed and dragged away. These are two very forceful words. You get the sense of a baited hook, almost like we are fish — there is a lure, there is the bait; there is an enticement, some kind of pleasure, something that fits your nature, your flesh. There is a magnetism, a gravitational pull toward it; it attracts the eye and the heart.
You begin to ponder the bait, to play with it a little, to nibble at it, lick it, whatever the fish do with bait. But it is something that has caught the fish’s attention, and the fish is pulling on it a little bit. In my entire life, I have caught one fish, so I do not know what I am talking about, but I imagine they are playing with the bait and so they are enticed.
Dragged Away by Lust
Then, part two is that the bait is in the mouth of the fish and the angler, the fisherman, knows it and is able to hook the fish with a jerk, and the fish is now hooked and dragged where the fish does not want to go. Many images lend themselves to this pull toward evil. For instance, this past year, a film was released about free solo rock climber Alex Honnold, who climbed without any equipment up the face of the El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. (Crazy person.) Every single moment, every finger hold, all that gravity is pulling on him toward his own death.
Consider salmon swimming upstream. Some salmon swim 900-1000 miles, against the whitewater, against the raging current of the mountain rivers, against waterfalls, seemingly going the wrong way. All the force of the water is against the journey they are trying to make. Our journey is harder than that, friends.
I was converted in October of 1982, and so began the war on my soul. I am still a Christian, but only by the grace of God. My soul has been assaulted every day of my Christian life by the world, the flesh, and the devil. And here I stand, but I stand very humble, aware that if the Lord had given me over to my lusts and my temptations I would have been gone a long time ago, and so would you. You will be saved and free from sin one day — in the end God wins. Praise God, He will win over you, and when you get to heaven, you will realize how much He saved you. To God be the glory.
These Lusts WAGE WAR on Your Soul (1 Peter 2:12)
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:12 that these lusts wage war against your soul. The best thing I can do as a pastor, the best thing we can do as brothers and sisters in the church, is help you fight that battle.
The True Destination of Temptation: Death
The third outline point is that the true destination of temptation is death. Look at verses 15-16, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.”
Lusts Get Stronger the More You Indulge Them
The lusts get stronger the more you indulge them. If you yield today, it will come back stronger tomorrow. Conversely, if you fight and kill the lust today, it will come back but weaker. You will never be totally free from any categorical lust while you live in this world, never be able to say, “I will never sin in that way again.” You must be vigilant all the time. If anyone thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. The ultimate end, the true destination, of indulging sin is death.
Like the Process of Childbirth and Child Development
James likens it to the process of childbirth and child development. He says that desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and then he speaks of sin becoming fully grown. You watch it grow up and develop to completion, to full development, continuing on. Sin has an intentionality. In a number of places in the New Testament it is personified, as in “Sin deceived me and through the commandment put me to death” as Paul says in Romans. It seems to have an intelligence. It has a plan for you, which is to assassinate your soul. It wants to destroy your life in this world and then destroy your soul in eternity. That is why John Owen said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you."
The Deceitfulness of Sin
We must see in verse 16 the deceitfulness of all this. “Don’t be deceived, dear brothers.” You must be aware of what is happening. Do not allow yourself to be deceived. Sin lies to us — it promises us pleasure but secretly poisons us, little by little. Hebrews 3:13 says that we should “…encourage one another daily... so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” How powerful, that we can be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Sin does not tell the truth about where it takes us. John Owen said about sin, “Sin not only wants to be constantly acting, but if let alone will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins... it always pushes to the utmost.” It is not trying to do a little thing in your soul; it is trying to take you the whole way, and in this way it does not tell you the truth but deceives you.
I think about what the Nazis did in World War II to get the people to quietly file onto the trains that would take them to their death. They were told that they were being transported to relocation camps. They used this kind of language. This is shown very plainly in the movie Schindler’s List. The Jews were told to carefully label all their luggage and stack it up neatly on the platform; it would be transported to their final destination. It is a very eerie scene in that movie when the people begin their journey to what we know is the death camps: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor. Off they go. After they are gone, workers throw the luggage into a warehouse where they dump out and organize the contents to see if there are any valuables. We know as the movie watchers that they will never see their stuff again because they are going to die.
Sin is like that. It uses complacent language about what is happening. It leads you to minimize it, to use different, milder words to describe it. It is not a big deal. This is a picture of the hardening of sin’s deceitfulness. You do not even know that your heart is getting harder toward God, toward Christ, toward Bible reading, toward prayer, toward fellowship; you do not want to do it as much, it is not as enjoyable to you. You pray shorter, you are tempted to forsake the assembling of yourself together with other Christians.
The opposite is a softening, which has to do with a heart that yields to God, to what the indwelling Spirit is telling you to do. The prompting of the Spirit finds submission in you. You are not stiff-necked, meaning rebellious, like the Jews of old. You are soft and yielded, but sin does the opposite, making you stiff-necked, and hard-hearted. That is sin’s deceitfulness.
The Final Destination of Such a Life is Hell
The final destination of this is death. We should not misunderstand and think we are talking only about physical death. We understand biblically that there is something called the second death. There is physical death, and we will all die. If the Lord does not return in our lifetime, we will die physically — that is true. But this is talking about much more than that. We must not be deceived.
Verse 16 mentions self-deception, “Do not be deceived, my dear brothers.” In verse 22 of the same chapter, James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And in verse 26 of the same chapter, three times in one short section, James says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” The whole project of the Book of James is to get you to understand what kind of faith saves you and what life comes from that. It is a life that fights temptation, fights sin, because you recognize what is happening.
For instance, for those who battle sexual immorality, Jesus was very plain about lust. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” [Matthew 5:28-30] Hell is the second death and that is where temptation will take us.
The Bible does not shrink back from warning us about where we are headed and where lust and sin lead. The Bible does this in part by giving us sober-minded warnings like this text. Some people wrestle theologically, saying, “I don't understand, Pastor. I thought once saved, always saved. I thought I was secure.” They have a hard time reading warnings. You must understand the warnings are essential to the salvation process of the unglorified saved elect. We are in a war zone, and the warnings do what they need to the souls of those who are elect — chosen — who will, in the end, make it through. Who takes the warnings seriously? The elect heed the warnings. If you are elect, genuinely converted, you will read James 1:13-18 and take it seriously. You will say, “I must be killing these lusts and killing sin or sin will be killing me."
God’s Good and Perfect Gifts
God is Not an Alluring Siren... Singing Us Over to Our Destruction
Point four on the outline is: Instead, look at God’s good gifts and His perfect gifts. God is not trying to destroy you; He is trying to save you. He is not trying to give you death but life. That is who God is. These are some of the most beautiful verses you will ever find on the generosity and the love of God. Look at verse 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.” God is not an alluring siren, enticing you to your own destruction — not at all. Jesus the Good Shepherd said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
God’s Perfect Nature
This text says about the same thing about God’s perfect nature. God is “the father of the heavenly lights.” Good gifts come down. Your eyes are lifted up, looking up at the heavens, and what do you see? You see the sun and you see the moon and the stars, which God created on the fourth day. He created the greater light to govern the day, the lesser light to govern the night, and in one of the great understatements in all of history “He also made the stars."
He set them in the heavens to give light to the Earth. He is very Earth-centered. I realize Nicholas Copernicus told us the earth is not the center of the solar system but the sun is. The earth is not the physical center, but it is the spiritual center of everything. God created the sun, and the moon, and the stars expressly to give light to the Earth. When their time is done, they will be done. In the New Heaven and New Earth He will give His own light directly; He will not delegate the job anymore to the sun or the moon or the stars or any lamp, but He will illuminate heaven with His own glory. That is the generosity and the love of God.
Look at the sun — it is very generous, don’t you think? It has been helping us out all this time. Day after day, it gives us light and warmth. It could keep going like this for a while. Cosmologists tell us that it could keep going at the present rate for another 5 billion years. I will reveal my eschatology and theology to say that I think we will be all set by then, friends. We will have come to the end of this phase of history and gone on to eternity by then. I think the sun is set up to run for a while. God has sent down that light; He is the Father of the lights from heaven, and He keeps them burning. He keeps all of the stars with their twinkling light, and the moon with its beautiful glow. God gives this generosity to us day after day. This is the nature of God’s limitless love.
He says in Ephesians 3:17-19, “And I pray that you may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Isn’t that what you get out of verse 17? He is giving you good gifts, and perfect gifts.
He never changes; He is immutable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change like shifting shadows, James tells us. Malachi 3:6 says, “I the Lord do not change.” Before the foundation of the world, He set His love on you, child of God. He says in Jeremiah 31:3. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” He loves you.
What Are God’s Good Gifts?
So James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” What are good gifts? I look on these as common grace blessings: food, clothing, shelter, beautiful scenery, intelligence, talents, skills, opportunities, finances. These are good gifts, and He gives them to everybody, enemies and friends alike. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” [Matthew 5:45] He lavishes generous gifts to everyone whether they thank Him or not. The non-Christians do not thank Him, but we can thank Him for these good gifts.
What Is God’s Perfect Gift? Salvation through Faith in Christ!!
But then there is the perfect gift, which is salvation. Look at verse 18. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” This is the perfect gift that comes from the unchanging God, that He wants to give you eternal life, and He will protect that life until it is consummated in glory in heaven.
Verse 18 begins with God’s free will, not yours. It is all about what God chose to do. If you ask if I believe in free will, I will need to know what you mean to answer that. What does that word means to you — free from what? We will discuss that in another sermon. But I am, thank God, not free from God’s effective influence on my soul. I am not free from the fact that He did a surgery in my heart and took out my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. And now He is working in that and gives me good holy desires for Him. That is what this birth is like. As He said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” This is the birth that must happen to you.
Come to Christ
I ask, has that happened to you? Just because you are sitting here in church does not mean that you are born again. Have you received the gift of life by hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, that God sent His only begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, who lived a sinless life, and died on the cross for our sins and lusts, and that in all that wickedness that we have committed, that His blood atones for our sins? All you must do is believe in Him and you will be forgiven. Are you born again? Have you received this perfect gift? That is what it is talking about here, that God chose to give us life so that we might be — as the best of all He created, the pinnacle, the cream — the firstfruits of His creation. He sets His sons and daughters redeemed by His sovereign grace, redeemed by His blood, above everything else. As it says in Isaiah 43:6-7, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth-- everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” We are the apple of His eye. He has engraved us in the palm of His hand, and He delights in us. That is who God is. So He is not luring you off the path of righteousness; He is feeding your soul to stay on the path of righteousness.
Beware of the Danger of Temptation!
I have invited those who are perhaps lost to find Christ. Now I am urging you who are already Christians to fight. Not tomorrow, not this week — fight right now. Fight as soon as church is over, because your soul, like mine, is under assault and will be while you live. The world, the flesh, and the devil will be assaulting you and so you need to be aware of that. Every sin pattern and every identifiable sin has attendant temptations that lead to it. Take prayerlessness for example: during your quiet time, while you are kneeling in prayer, have you ever felt a force on you to stop praying? Certainly you feel it in your lower back as you get older. But you feel it in your wandering mind, and you think, “Alright, I prayed long enough.” You feel a pull, pull, pull, like gravity, to stop praying. Then you find it is not only stopping that prayer time, but that you do not need to pray as much or you do not need to pray right now. That is prayerlessness, but there is a temptation that leads toward it.
What about anxiety? It is a sin. Are there any temptations toward anxiety? You better believe there are. You may be having a financial difficulty, a medical trouble for yourself or a loved one, and you find yourself ruminating, “What shall we do? What shall we do? What shall we do?” There are temptations to ponder in an unbelieving way your condition and your situation.
What about forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, deciding not to go to worship? It could start innocently. You have worked really hard this week. I do not know what excuses one may give for not going to church. I am not saying if you miss church one time that you are definitely in wickedness, but there is a process by which people forsake assembling of themselves together in corporate worship.
What about arguing in your marriage? Some of you may do that. Some of you may argue with your parents, or you parents with your kids. Arguing is a sin. “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” There are temptations toward it. Have you ever felt that you are in the middle of a marital discussion, and some cool ideas to win your point pop up in your mind, some creative ways in which you will checkmate and win forever that particular point. But guess what? Your victory did not happen. If we could see in the invisible spiritual realms, there is a demon feeding each side, keeping the fire going, and there are temptations toward those kinds of arguments and conflicts.
There are temptations toward sexual immorality of all sorts. Some of you are really battling Internet pornography. And you know exactly what this pull feels like. You know it is evil, you know it is wrong, and you want to continue to use the computer to do your work, but every time you click on, you start feeling that pull. Perhaps because you have indulged it many times before, it is stronger than ever. You must fight for your soul.
What about fornication? It is still a sin in the 21st century. The young people, whether in high school or college, who are not married, are being told that it is not a sin to have sex together. They use different euphemisms to minimize it. We see all kinds of damage for years to come, even if the couple ends up married.
What about adultery? We have had to pick up the pieces on some of that recently. It is devastating. A person in a moment of vulnerability meets someone, one thing leads to another, they do not nip it in the bud, and then things happen and they make excuses. “It was like a freight train, I couldn't stop myself.” That is garbage. You saw it coming, you did not nip it in the bud, you did not see your own enticements, and you did not kill it when you should have.
What about bitterness toward God? Some of you may be dealing with that. You have had some trials and pain. God has not answered prayer and you are being tempted, tempted, tempted, tempted toward hardness, toward bitterness toward God.
What about unforgiveness toward another person? You are being tempted in that direction too. You keep going over it, and ruminating on what they did to you, and you just cannot forgive, it seems. It is temptation. There is temptation toward all sin patterns.
What about gossip? You know something juicy about somebody and you find yourself talking and next thing you know, the words are on the tip of your tongue, and you do not even realize how many times you have done it in the past, slandered somebody or gossiped. We are being tempted in so many different directions.
Brothers and sisters, the Father of lights, this pure, holy God, is with you, commanding you to be holy in all of these areas, and equipping and empowering you to kill these temptations so that they will not in the end kill you.
Close with me in prayer. Father, thank You for this time to study Your word. Thank You for the serious warnings there are in texts like this. Thank You for James writing down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who You are, how pure You are, how generous and how loving; and who we are, how corruptible we are, how in danger we are every moment. Help my brothers and sisters here. Help us to fight sin for your glory, for our own good, for our own fruitfulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.