James 1 B: Tests and Temptations
Now last week we started the study in James and I read from both the KJV and the NIV. We notice there are different words used in these two versions for the word –‘temptation.’ The NIV refers to the word ‘temptations’ used in verse 2 in the KJV as ‘trials’. There is a difference in the connotation of what those two words mean. In the original Greek the root word from which we derive ‘temptations’ is also the root word behind: ‘trials’ or tests. So it can be translated trials as well as the word tempt, which means to entice. So the same word is used –but with two subtle differences.
In this first section James is referring to tests of difficult circumstances which God has allowed or sent into one’s life to test their faith with the purpose of exposing weak areas and teaching us to trust Him. How we react to these tests reveals much about our faith. God’s purpose in these trials of adversity is to purify one’s faith, enlarge it, strengthen it and prepare us. Tests come from outside and impact us on the inside; temptations come from the inside, within us and can affect our behavior or actions on the outside.
In each test or trial the Lord allows in our lives as believers, there is always hidden within the temptation to respond in the wrong way. One can complain and become bitter. We can question God’s love and care for us. We can resist His will. Our response to the tests and trials of life reveal where our faith is and whether we have no faith, little faith, or great faith. The enemy of our soul uses these tests and our response as an opportunity to tempt us by providing an opportunity to escape the tests or trial. In fact he accuses God of not having your best interest and of course your old nature quickly agrees with the accusations. You will be tempted to find a solution to get out of your problem instead of waiting on the Lord. Remember one of the signs of the immature believer is impatience. Getting ahead of God can create even more problems, just look at Abraham. He trusted the Lord to take him to Canaan, leaving the Ur of Chaldees to a land which the Lord would show him. When he got to Canaan, what happened? The Lord sent a famine to Canaan. Abraham had flocks, his wife, his nephew Lot and servants to take care of and he was new in this journey of faith. It was a trial sent by God, an opportunity to trust God to provide. (Trust is a learned response.) But Abraham had not yet learned the name of Jehovah Jireh and went to Egypt and God had to deal with Abraham and the mess he got in. In your spiritual journey, you will at times, fail the test. Hopefully you will learn from your experiences. You will learn as Abraham that God will provide all your needs. We must learn to trust His Goodness, for the enemy will tempt you to question God’s goodness in these times of testing. There can be long term consequences of failed tests- Abraham’s life is a testimony to this truth.
Now in verses 9-11, James mentions two other tests: the test of poverty and the test of richness. In each case there is a temptation within the tests. If you are poor – your greatest temptation is covetousness. You envy and covet the rich and can be tempted by the things you do not have. (If you recall the story of Genesis, Adam and Eve could eat from every tree in the Garden, but one, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.) Yet it was the one thing they did not have that was used to tempt them. You might be prone to think- well I can identify with that temptation, but if I were rich – I would not want for anything. Yet we are told in Mark 4:19, KJV: “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word and it becomes unfruitful.” Riches are deceitful. The rich person trusts himself, his wisdom and his resources to solve
His problems. However when we give our lives over to acquire physical wealth and possessions and love the things of this world- we soon find those things only satisfy temporarily. We soon grow tired of them and search for the next new and exciting thing. This is the deceitfulness- that the possession of these things will satisfy the deepest longing of our heart. But life does not consist of the abundance of our possessions. After all once you have died- what becomes of all you have worked so hard to obtain? Leaving this great wealth to your family might also cause them to stumble and the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches will then choke out the Word of God in their lives and the generations to come. Do you see the enemy’s strategy to choke out the Word of God is always his primary goal. Why? For the enemy knows we are born again by the incorruptible seed- the Word of God. It is also as Peter wrote by these great and precious promises in His Word we are partakers of the divine nature and escape the lust of this world.
Jim Elliott said ‘a man is no fool to give up what he cannot keep for that which he can never lose.’ The riches the poor man has in Christ are even more valuable to him given his poverty. He is a rich, poor man. What is important in this world is to ‘fear God and keep His commandments.’ A very rich and wise man said that- Solomon. Solomon discovered the vanity of looking for meaning to life in wealth, position, power, entertainment and sensual delight. He has searched for meaning in life in all the wrong places. He describes the emptiness and meaningless of it all in his story told in Ecclesiastes. Solomon was a poor, rich man. Did you know statistically more rich people commit suicide than poor people?
Now verse 12 of James 1 is a perfect example why the NIV chooses to differentiate between the word – temptation and trial or test. KJV reads: “Blessed is the man endureth temptation; for when he is tried shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.” The NIV reads this way: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trials, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
If the word in the KJV means ‘enticement to do evil”; one does not endure the enticement to do evil, we resist it or overcome it. In the case of youthful lusts, we are told to ‘flee youthful lusts.’ We are never told to endure the enticement to do evil. So here James is not talking about enduring the enticement- he is talking about enduring, preserving the trial or test- knowing it is working together for our good. When we endure the testing of our faith we are blessed- happy, joyful. Do not miss the condition of this promise: it is for those who love the Lord.
This brings us to James clarifying and expanding on the truth of where temptations, the enticement to do evil come from. And James is emphatic in this truth that NO TEMPTATION TO DO EVIL COMES FROM GOD. God is perfect and holy. There is nothing within God that can be enticed by evil, sin. For the same reasons it is impossible for God to tempt anyone to do evil, to sin. (However God does not shelter us from temptation, but gives us the tools and the power to resist temptation.)
THE ANATOMY OF MURDER –DEATH BY SIN
James was emphatic and leaves no room for doubt- ‘God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone.’
Here are our first two truths:
- Every man is tempted. Everyone is tempted. Temptation is the common experience of every human being- Christian or Non-Christian. We all face the battle of temptation and how we face
The battle is the mark of genuine faith and spiritual maturity. Learning how to overcome the battle of temptation and use the divine weapons we have been given by God is vital!
- The temptation comes from within- by our own evil desires. We are told our old nature is dead, having been crucified with Christ. Yet we know- crucifixion was by design a slow means of dying, a form of torture designed by the Roman Military to serve as a warning to all who broke the law. I am a new creature- old things have passed away and are passing away and being replaced by the new God has provided for me. Paul tells us in Romans 6, we are to reckon (count) ourselves dead to sin. We must rely on this fact, because our old nature does not ‘feel’ dead. Our faith is in the facts not the feelings. Emotions can be deceiving, as we will see in this passage.
Now James tells us temptation is the pull of man’s own evil thoughts and wishes. . These are words used in fishing- meaning ‘bait that lures one’. In fact we use lures in fishing- those are designed to look like food, or use bait such as worms. A fish can be swimming along when it is attracted by the bait. The fish turns away from where it is going and takes the bait, only to discover too late there is a hook in it. What pulls us to the bait is what is within each of us that cause us to be tempted- lust. Our old nature has evil desires and we are drawn away by our lusts. Left unchecked, unguarded our old nature will move toward the baited hooks, the lures that draw us away. It begins with a thought which is not taken into captivity. Lust is a driving passion. You old nature is always seeking the opportunity to be tempted. John tells us in I John 5- “We know that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Thus the trio who conspire against us to entice us- the world, the flesh and the devil. The stage is set- the battlefield is our mind. It is the old nature versus the new nature; the outward man against the inward man; the flesh against the Spirit; the new creation against the old creation are the ways the Bible describes this ongoing battle.
James is not saying ‘the devil made me do it.’ James is saying in very practical terms- ‘don’t blame the devil. Sin is your fault. Man has since the fall in the Garden wanted to blame someone else for his sin. James says when we sin- there is only one reason- we chose to do it. Almost all sin is a perversion of a desire, an appetite that was God given. Lusts can be for many different things. It can be for power, pleasure, possessions, a relationship or a host of other things- from sex, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, food, clothes, etc. Lust is a strong, passionate desire. Desire can be for good things or bad things.
We will look at the process in what is really the anatomy of murder and look at the four steps.
James moves from one illustration of hunting and fishing to childbirth to describe the process. The child that comes forth is sin. He is going to describe the four steps of wrong desire that bring forth the sin and of course the wages of sin is death. This is always the result of sin- death.
It starts with desire. Psalm 37 tells us: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Desire is an emotion. It begins with a feeling of wanting to be satisfied. Our minds begin to
Dwell upon this desire. Our imaginations begin to picture us having this desire satisfied. We realize the things of this world are luring us. Things we set our eyes upon. The things we allow our minds to dwell upon, the places our feet take us, the things our hands do, the fellowships we nurture that become relationships. We use the outward members of our body to encourage and fulfill our lust.
What is the next word – deception. Desire is an emotion. Deception takes place in the mind. You start with a desire in your emotion and then it becomes a deception in your mind. Your mind begins to rationalize that you have a right for that which you desire. You deserve it. Now do you see the process? The lure, the bait entices you, draws you away. The hook is baited and the intellect is deceived by the emotions. You believe you deserve it. And so goes the pattern: it starts with a desire, which left unchecked, moves to deception which will then come up with a plan, a design to make this a reality in your life. To satisfy this longing because you have convinced yourself it is right for you – you deserve a break today.
The next step is disobedience. The emotion, the uncontrolled thoughts, leads to the deception of the intellect to the next step which is the action that takes place. The result is behavior. Behavior is the actual act resulting from emotions which lead the mind to rationalize which leads to a plan which ends in disobedience. Every outward action began as a thought. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart- so is he.” Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it come the issues of lie.
The result of sin- death. Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is separation of your soul from God. Eternal death is eternal separation from God.
Almost everything in our society works on our emotions. I can get upset watching my favorite team get beat. I can have my emotions, desires moved by a drama in a movie, a book or on television. Advertising is constantly coming at us to do one thing- stir our emotions. For it is in our emotions where our attention is first attracted. The enemy uses the things of this world to arouse our old sensuous nature.
Here is what is so maddening about this process- the enemy is tempting us to keep us from obeying God. God always has what is best for us. In the next verses, James will tell every good and perfect gift is from the Father of Heavenly Lights. Every- Good and Perfect Gift. Satan from the very beginning questioned God’s goodness. He is a liar and a deceiver- God is good and in Him there is no shadow of turning.
When you know the Word of God- know God’s view point, you will learn to recognize the bait, the lure, and the deception. The immature Christian lets their feelings make their decisions.
The more you exercise your will in saying no to temptation, the more God will control your life.
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2)
So based on this anatomy of sin- at what point do you deal with sin? At the level of behavior, disobedience? No. You deal with sin in its initial attack, the desire. And desire starts in the emotions.
Remember the verse in 2 Peter? Peter writes: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in this world caused by evil desires. (lust)”
Here is the number one problem and mistake we make, 2 Corinthians 10: “For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we do not wage war after the flesh.” KJV “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” NIV The world tries to change the flesh- the outward man. The world says change our behavior. The world is always working on the outside of man. Advertising manipulates us by saying if we dress a certain way- we will feel better about ourselves. If we drive a certain type of car, we will have a better image of our self. Yet the Bible tells us- where the trouble starts- it starts within.
Now Peter tells us God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10 this includes the weapons we fight temptation with. : “The weapons we fight with are not weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God; we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. “(2 Corinthians 10: 4, 5) Do you see where the battle is? The mind. Paul writes in Romans 12- do not be conformed by the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul also dealt with the members of our body – our outward man in this section by telling us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
We have numerous other scriptures regarding our thought life, our minds. We are told ‘to have this mind in us, which is in Christ Jesus.’ We are to set our minds on things above, not the things here below on earth. ‘
Ever wondered why the devil does not want the world and us included to not believe the Word of God? He knows we can use the Word of God against him as Christ did in Matthew 4.
‘The Word of God is alive and powerful. Sharper than a two-edged sword; it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ‘(Hebrews 4:12)
We will study more in detail in James 4, the steps we take to resist the devil. We will study how to recognize thoughts that are wrong and take them captive by replacing them with truth.
We close today’s’ lesson by considering what James tells us about our Heavenly Father. He is the giver of all good gifts. They are good and perfect- because He is good and perfect. The NIV says – ‘He does change like shifting shadows. He is immutable.
James 1: 18: “ God chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created.”
How are we born again? Peter tells us we are born again of the incorruptible seed – the Word of God. Paul writes: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of Glory.” (Ephesians 1:14)
The Word of God is the instrument of salvation. Man is saved when the Word of God comes alive in him. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10; 17)
But the Word of God is so much more than just the instrument of salvation.
It not only gives us new life, it transforms and sustains our life. It comforts us and guides us and gives us the ability to resist the devil and temptations.
This Word must be preached and taught in our churches. God has given us new birth so that we might become channels through which the word is shared with others in the hope they can experience new birth. The bottom line- sin shall no longer have dominion over you. Then you can experience the abundant life- yes there will be testing. But you will realize this will enlarge and strengthen your faith so that you might produce even more fruit and your joy be complete. James is telling us something – He is saying- there is nothing worth having outside of what God has to give us. And God delights to give good and perfect gifts to us- His children. God’s gifts have nothing in them to cause us grief. They are perfect.
They satisfy our deepest desires and longings.
WE will learn the steps to take toward spiritual maturity.
We will learn the following in this study:
- How to identify the problem
- How to get more grace
- How to submit to God
- How to resist the devil
- How to draw near to God
- How to cleanse your hands
- How to purify your hearts
- Understand what is means to be afflicted
- Understand the principle of humbling yourself in God’s sight.
James is going to share with us how we ought to live out our lives. He is addressing the need for spiritual maturity. How to match what we say we believe with how we live. I believe I belong to Christ and Christ belongs to me. Now how do we live a life in that says the same thing. How to move from being a hearer of the Word to a doer of the Word?
James says it is by grace through faith. A ‘faith that works!’