Testing

Temptation, 17 October 2021

Temptation
Series—Faith Works: The book of James
James 1:13-18

Series Big Idea:
Jesus’ half-brother James offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life.

Big Idea: God is good, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

Today we’re back in the book of James, arguably the most practical book in the Bible. In between Global Missions Sundays and Advent, we’re going to continue going verse-by-verse through this short but powerful book. As a refresher, James is believed to have been written by Jesus’ half-brother who went from a skeptic to one of the leaders of the early Church. Dr. Tony Evans says, “James is the in-your-face, no -holds-barred apostle. He says in essence, ‘If you are going to be a Christian, be a real one.’”

I couldn’t agree more. The reputation of Christians in our current culture is…tragic! Instead of being known for faith, hope, and love we seem to have a reputation for politics, ignorance, and arrogance. We need real Christians, men, women and children who speak the truth in love, who are strong and courageous, who lead rather than follow, and whose hearts are set on the LORD Jesus Christ. It’s not about how much you know. The Pharisees were among the most knowledgeable people of their day, yet they missed the forest through the trees. Not only did they not look like Jesus, they had him killed!

Are you a Christian, a
real Christian? The short book of James is a great litmus test.

We looked at the first twelve verses of the book several months ago and James’ writings about trials. Trials are right up there with death and taxes as certainties in life. We all experience them, yet we are to consider them “pure joy” because they test our faith, producing perseverance and maturity. Verse 12 says,

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

We all want to be blessed. I usually sign my e-mails, “Blessings, Kirk.” It’s not one of those automatic signatures, but something I manually type each time. I truly want to bless others. I want you to be blessed. I want God to bless you…not only when you sneeze!

We often think of blessings as a new car, a promotion at work, or an attractive mate, but blessed or “happy” as some translations say is about our ability to experience, enjoy, and extend God’s goodness. It’s not about what happens around us as much as what happens internally, our ability to experience joy and growth.

There’s a big difference between trials and temptations, though they come from the same Greek word, peirazo. God allows trials to strengthen us. Athletes often compete in “time trials” which are races designed to test their abilities. In doing so, the runners are challenged and strengthened.

Temptation comes from satan who tries to cause us to fail. God’s testing and satan’s tempting can occur in the same event, but
God does not tempt anyone, though He allows trials.

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)

I think that’s clear. God does not tempt anyone, nor is He tempted by evil…though Jesus was tempted while on earth before his death and resurrection. Notice the progression that occurs:

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

Satan tempts through desire which leads to sin and death.

Satan cannot make you sin, but he can tempt you. He hates you and wants to destroy you…or perhaps wants you to destroy you! Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Do you see the contrast?

Family, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. We have a very real enemy. He knows your weaknesses. He knows how to appeal to your desires, leading you into sin and death. He’s very good…but God is greater!

We’ve all heard countless stories of leaders—inside and outside of the church—who have had moral failures. I doubt any of them ever thought, “Someday I want to have an affair and destroy my marriage, family, and career.” It all began with a desire and rationalization which led to sin and ultimately death…the death of their integrity, reputation, and like all sin, separation from fellowship with God.

I must add God forgives.

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)

Hallelujah! But we may still live with the consequences of our sin. All sin leads to death, whether it’s the death of relationships, trust, or in some cases literal physical death.

What can we do to avoid death? Don’t sin.
What can we do to avoid sin? Avoid desire and temptation.
How do we do that?
Be alert!

Peter wrote,

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Where are you vulnerable? We all have different desires and weaknesses. Some of you struggle with alcohol, others porn, still others food. You may battle pride and self-righteousness (that’s been one of my vices since childhood). Fear is a seductive sin when the most common command in the Bible is, “Fear not.” You know the old saying, “If you play with fire you’ll get burned.” Where are you vulnerable? The enemy knows!

Most of us are tempted in the areas of
identity (which we discussed last month), acceptance, significance, and security. Jesus was tempted by satan in each in Matthew chapter four…yet never sinned. It’s important to note temptation is not a sin—only when we give in to the temptation. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

It’s easy to think Jesus doesn’t understand pain or trials or testing or temptation…but he surely does! He was able to resist temptation because he knew his enemy, his focus was on the will of the Father, and he knew where and when he was vulnerable.

When are you vulnerable? One of my favorite acronyms, HALT, describes the four times we are especially likely to sin:

Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

We need to be alert, especially when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I have learned to be extra alert to temptation when one or more of these describe my condition. Often more than one is present.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. This is not about trying harder. It’s not about striving to be perfect. It’s recognizing all sin leads to death, the enemy is tricky, we need to be alert, and we need to call upon the LORD for help in times of trouble. I’m grateful for Paul’s words:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; 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 endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

You can make excuses and rationalize sin all day long, but the truth is you are not an uncontrollable animal. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you.

My friend and coach, Bruce Terpstra, notes in his book Three Passions of the Soul,

´╗┐The power of temptation is that it has appeal to your soul. Jesus was tempted in every way just like us, and yet was able not to sin (Heb 4:15). He was able to throw off the temptation because there was nothing in him that was attracted to sin. What attracts us to sin? Our souls are sick. They have been corrupted. But there is hope because we are not under the power of sin any longer. We are not bound. Sin is not our destiny. Christ has rescued us and set us free. We are free indeed.

Last week at staff meeting we were discussing a definition of a disciple. A disciple of Jesus is, quite simply, someone who looks and acts like Jesus, someone filled with the Holy Spirit.


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Holy Spirit gives self-control. Ask God for it!
We need to pray!

I realize sin is a struggle for all of us, myself include. As I’ve often said, I’m a recovering Pharisee…among other things. Sanctification—becoming like Jesus—is a lifelong process. There are successes and failures along the way. Staying alert helps. Prayer helps.

In addition, journeying with others help.
We need to do life together. We have fifteen Life Groups to help you. Celebrate Recovery gathers each Wednesday at 7 PM to help you with hurts, habits, and hang ups, which is all of us!

I know this is politically incorrect, but not only is it not all about you, you can’t do it alone. We were not created to be independent individuals. We were made for interdependent community. We all have blind spots and weaknesses which others can reveal and help us avoid. As we’ll see later in James, we are to

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

We need to confess our sins to each other.
We need to pray for each other.
We need to speak the truth in love to one another.
We need to love and encourage one another.

If you don’t have people in your life doing that, it’s no wonder you struggle with temptation and sin. I urge you to get in a Life Group. Serve on one of our ministry teams. Get connected…not because we need you to join anything, but because we need one another.

I want to say again that
God may test, but He never tempts. In fact, Pope Francis recently made a slight change to the Lord’s Prayer for Catholics to underscore this point. We commonly say, “Lead us not into temptation,” but the Catholic Church now says, “Do not let us fall into temptation.” I like that, because God never tempts. He does test, guide and protect.

James chapter one continues,

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

God may test, but never tempts. He only gives good gifts.

God is good, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

The enemy wants you to believe God is bad, that He hates you, that He is out to get you, that He could never love you. That’s a lie!

God only gives good gifts and every good and perfect gift is from God.
When you are tempted—not if—focus on the goodness of God and His character. He is the Father of lights. He never changes. He always shines. He is truth. He is sovereign and in control. He is love.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:18)

He made us His children so we can be a kind of firstfruits of His creation.

There’s a big difference between trials and temptations.

God does not tempt anyone, though He allows trials.

Satan tempts through desire which leads to sin and death.

We need to be alert, especially when we are H
ungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

We need to pray. We need to do life together.

Finally,
God is good, the giver of every good and perfect gift. You are so valuable to Him, a child of the Most High God, His first fruits, the very best. You are a treasure.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library
here.
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