James 4B: Temptations and Tomorrow
We ended our lesson in James 4 after studying the three wars that we wage in our lives: with one another, within ourselves and also a war with God. How do we find this peace, this satisfaction and how do we resist the temptations? Here are the steps as James outlines them, and it begins with a very important source for solving all our problems. James says: “ But He gives us more grace.”
- Identify the problem. James told us in the first chapter two truths about temptations. One truth is every person is tempted. Secondly James told us: : when we are tempted we are drawn away of our own lusts, and enticed. Temptations are warning signals we have desires against God’s will.
- Get more grace. It is God who gives us the desire and the will to do His good pleasure. ( Phil 2:12) You cannot resist the devil in your own power and people who depend upon their own will power end up prideful. God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble.
- Submit to God. Remember the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11. Jesus is inviting you to submit to his yoke,trade in the yoke you are under- the yoke of sin. And take his yoke and you will find rest. Get under God’s authority, obey His word.
- Resist the devil and he will flee. How do we resist? WE have weapons that are mighty ( of divine origin) to the pulling down of strongholds and taking every imagination and pretension that is against the knowledge of God – taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Know your weapons- prayer and the Word of God.(2 Cor. 10) Put on the full armor that God has provided. Take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And remember the Word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword dividing asunder the thought and intentions of the heart. Now ask God to rebuke the devil in the name and through the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus resisted the devil in wilderness in Matthew 4 as a man who was equipped with the Word of God. Quote scripture that relates to your temptation. Study Ephesians 6; Matthew 4 and 2 Corinthians 10.
- Draw near to God. God allows Satan to tempt us, the book of Job reveals this fact. When we recognize the temptation, God says flee- run to Him. Strive to have a conscious awareness of God at all times. Daily Bible intake, especially in the morning and a time of prayer is the way to start.
- Wash,cleanse your hands. If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from unrighteousness. ( I John 1:9) Godly sorrow which leads to repentance is part of true confession. Without godly sorrow and repentance we risk being double minded. ( That is carnal) Satan uses past sins to bring us new temptations. Cleanse your conscience with confession and repentance.
- Purify your hearts. Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any wickedness in it. There is a sin that easily besets you and causes you to stumble. It comes from the secret desires in your heart.
- Grieve, mourn and wail. ( KJV- Be Afflicted) This is the result of godly sorrow and brings true repentance. See as Paul did in Romans 7 your wretched condition. Remember how committing that sin made you feel.
- Humble yourself in God’s sight. This is where we get more grace. Humble yourself or God will humble you. See Luke 14:11
Realize we have an enemy of our soul, the devil. Recognize his methods. We have an old nature and world system which entice us. Recognize the following ways the enemy attacks: * impure thoughts; *doubting God and His Word;* discouragement and disappointment; *fear and worry. Use Scripture to resist the devil and take captive those thoughts which come from below and not above. Become skillful in conquering temptation by the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit. Put on the full armor of God. Pray- using the name of Jesus Christ and the blood of Christ – reminding the enemy he is already defeated. “ And they overcame the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony..” ( Revelation 12)
As we transition from dealing with temptation to boasting about tomorrow, James gives us two verses regarding judging one another. One verse in particular gives us something to consider before we judge others. “ There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you- who are you to judge your neighbor?” ( James 4:12, NIV)
We are to be representatives of God, for we were created in His Image. We also have been born again and bear the family name so our actions reflect on the name we proudly bear. But James is clear there is only one Lawgiver and one Judge- and it is not us. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, give us another warning about judgment: “ Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Let me ask you: do you want God’s judgment for your sins or His mercy? I am pretty sure- your answer is mercy. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am a sinner. A sinner by birth and a sinner by choice. This does not prohibit a church body from exercising scriptural authority over those in the fellowship in flagrant disobedience as reported in the church at Corinth in I Cor. 5&6.
James has been teaching us about spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is not perfection. For we will not be perfect until we see Him, the Lord Jesus. Then we are told we will be like Him. Until that time we are in the process of sanctification, being conformed to His Image. We should continue to strive for perfection even though the goal of sinless perfection will not be achieved in these earthly bodies- but we should sin less. We should be making progress. WE cannot live in sinless perfection on this earth- but we should be living a life true to our identity as the children of God Almighty. Know how you are going to live a life with less sin? Love the Lord with all your heart. Trying to keep the law without first observing what James called the ‘ royal law of love’ will become drudgery one cannot possibly do. Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments. A mother does not treat her child with kindness and provide their needs out of fear of violating the laws designed to prohibit child abuse. She keeps the law out of love for her child.
In this last part of chapter 4, James ask a rhetorical question which has a chilling answer which will surely give you food for thought. James asks: “ What is your life?” He then answers: “ You are a mist that appears a little while and then vanishes.” James says your life ( in light of eternity) is a wisp.
We keep track of our lives in terms of years, don’t we? How old are you? We say I am 70 years old. We do not say, I am 25, 567 days old. Yet the Bible tells us to ‘ number our days.’ Is God trying to tell us something ? Today is all we have. You can waste it; spend it or invest it. Moses prayed- “ Lord teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” ( Psalm 90) David prayed: “ Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.” ( Psalm 39) We reach a point in our lives where we realize how fleeting time is. When we were younger- we wanted to be older. And then at some point we wanted to be younger. We are told – ‘ all the days ordained for each of us were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.’ ( Psalm 139)
James addresses what appears to be businessmen who have their day planners out and are marking their calendars with activities and mapping out where they are going when and how long they will stay there and what they will do. There is nothing wrong with planning, but planning without God included is acting as if God is of no consequence. Often as Christians, we get caught up in business, especially men. It is in our nature to be competitive achievers. We are told ‘ plan your work and work your plan.’ When we spend so many of our days and nights in blocks of 8,10, 12 hours per day 5 and 6 days per week working at our jobs, building our careers, our resumes, and businesses, we sometimes seem to put our lives in compartments, don’t we? There is our career, our relationships with spouse, family, friends, church life, social life,business life, etc. We go around life as if it were a board game, like monopoly.
What is the board on which our life is played? It is a calendar that marks our days, months and years. Then one day- we finish the game. All the pieces, all the stuff we accumulated goes back in the box. Others will play it – picking up where we left off. Competing, comparing, climbing and keeping score. You realize at some time you have spent your life accumulating things which will not last. And you also realize life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. ( Luke 12) Jesus said- in the parable of the rich fool who planned on living a long life with all he had saved and stored and then suddenly that night his soul was required. He died. Others took possession of all he had worked to save in order to eat, drink and be merry. Jesus said ‘ this is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.’
Life cannot be properly understood or lived in the most fulfilling way without considering the spiritual realm.*Do not leave God out of the equation- or you will never get the answer right.*
James says we live because God wills we live. I exist because God willed for me to exist. I was born at the appointed time and place which God determined. Acts 17 tells us this fact. Paul explains: “ God did this so we might seek God and perhaps reach out and find Him though He is not far from each of him. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘ for we are also His offspring.” ( Acts 17, Paul at Mars Hill.)
God is Sovereign. “ The Lord frustrates the counsel of the nations. He thwarts the plans of peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh- the people He has chosen to be His own possession.” ( Psalm 33)
James concludes these thoughts about planning with this advice- with a word to the wise . “ Instead you ought to say, “ If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
You may be thinking- at my age, my career is winding down or over. I am getting older and not as spry as I used to be. What if this verse is for you: “ They will bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘ The Lord is upright; He is my Rock and there is no wickedness in Him.” ( Psalm 92:14,15)
What if – we really believed God has a plan for us? “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “
Do you believe this? If this is true, then the only plan that really ends up prospering us is God’s plan. It is the only plan we should be seeking.* In fact God tells us : “ Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” ( Jeremiah 29) Notice it is whole hearted efforts- half-hearted efforts will not work. By now you have probably learned – whole hearted efforts are the only ones that get results.
God declared twice what his plans were. Told us what to do following these two declarations of his plan. It is one of those promises if we do our part- He will do His. Seek Him with all your heart, call upon Him and pray and you will be found by the Lord – He will set you free from that which has held you captive.
What if we believe if – we seek His kingdom and His righteousness first- God has promised to provide all we need- all we seek of true value will be given to us. Do you believe this?
What if – we really can bear fruit and remain green and fresh in our old age.
What if- we believed what Jesus said when He said : “ If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. For what good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world , yet forfeits his soul? “ ( Matthew 16)
What if- we believed the promise, yes, even the challenge the Lord gives us in Malachi: “ Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” ( Malachi 3)
What if– we believed that “ He who did not spare His only Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also along with Him grant us all things? ( Romans 8)
What if – we believed what Peter wrote when he told us: “ By his divine power He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.” ( 2Peter 1)
What if – we believed God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Nothing is impossible for Him!
What if- we believed we are who He says we are and we can do what He says we can do.
What if- His Word was active and alive in our lives through obedience?
What if – God Almighty is not only great but is also good, kind, loving and merciful. For He is.
There are no-‘ if’s and, or buts.’ My Heavenly Father is loving- it is His very character: God is Love. Then James says- if we know this- we ought to do what is good for to know what we ought to do and not do it is sin.
God answered all our what if’s when He raised Jesus from the dead. Seen by over 500 people.
God answered all our what if’s when in one day, just as He said it would be, Israel became a nation again in 1948 in one day after centuries of not existing.
And God answered my what if’s the day I prayed- “ Lord Jesus if you are real – come into this room and into my life and save me!” And He did.
So what will you do with today? For today is all we have. Remember this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Also we are reminded how a day can be used: wasted, spent or invested.
“ I tell you , now(today) is the time of God’s favor, now( today) is the day of salvation.”
So today make it your goal to please the Lord!