Escaping the Temptation Trap
Let’s approach this passage of text the way James might have if he was here:
Temptation is, “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise” – and in the life of faith, “wrong or unwise” would be anything that goes against God, his character or commands.
What temptations do you and I face? We all face temptations. The point of our passage this morning is to help us understand more about temptation and how to overcome it.
James 1:13–21 || 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. [NLT]
God does NOT temp us
Since God created us to be his image on this earth, for him to tempt us to live in a way that is against his nature and character would be a horrible injustice and counterproductive.
- God is NEVER tempted to do wrong
- God NEVER temps us to do wrong
So, if temptation does not come from God, where does it come from? OUR DESIRES, and THE DEVIL.
1 Peter 5:8–9 || 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. [NLT]
The temptation my come from Satan (or the devil) as it is his desire to destroy us and the work of God. That is his mission.
- We can expect TESTING to come from God because God wants us to grow in our faith in him.
- We can expect TEMPTING to come from the devil because he wants us to be dragged away from our faith. [Think of Jesus in the wilderness, Job, etc]
But Satan is only one of the sources. Our own evil desires is the other. Temptations come from inside of us. Our sin nature. We inherited from Adam, and we will fight it until the day we give up this body of flesh for our new redeemed ones.
My WRONG desires may be like those that we have studied in the Pentateuch: [remember, James is writing to Jewish believers, so the Torah/Pentateuch would be something they are familiar with!]
- Pride or arrogance (babel)
- Wanting to be god (adam & eve)
- Revenge (cain)
- Lust (Sodom – and David w/Bathsheba)
So, when we find ourselves with the desire to do something that is not in line with God’s character or commands, we should understand that desire has NOT come from God but is designed to drag us away from God. When our desires go against God’s mandate on how to live, when they go against his very nature and character, then the desire must not be given in to. We must resist that temptation.
James then explains to us the deadly path of temptation.
Temptation is a Trap
There is a pattern that continues…. Temptations can give BIRTH to sinful actions. Sin can then GROW and lead to death. [symbols: Heart – hands – skull]
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
Temptation is not sin by itself. Temptation comes from our own desires which entice us and drag us away.
Entice is to bait or draw us. This is the ONLY place in scripture where this phrase “drawn away” or “drag away” is used. The picture that is see in my mind is of someone that is being captured and dragged off as a prisoner or war. The goal of temptation is to lead us, as prisoners of war, away from God and into the slavery of sin.
NOTE: can you see God would never tempt us?
The desire may or may not be a sin. But for certain, the actions are sinful. The desire gives birth to sinful actions.
Desires lead to action.
I desired to spend my life on this earth with Laura and I asked her to marry me. She desired to suffer for Jesus, so she said yes!
Neither of those desires were sinful. Not all desires are sinful. We can desire some very good things! However, desires to do what is contrary to God and his nature are not good.
Evil desires lead to sinful action if not cut off immediately. Continued sinful actions lead to death. Notice the way James uses life cycles here: desires give BIRTH to sinful actions. As sinful actions GROW them eventually bring about DEATH.
Again, we saw this in Cain and with Eve. BOTH of them had a desire which lead to actions which lead to punishment and death.
Both Cain and Eve had a way out, right? Think of God’s words to Cain in Genesis 4:
Genesis 4:7 || 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” [NLT]
There was a temptation to sin, and god reminded Cain what he needed to do to avoid sinning. He then gives this insight:
Where mankind was originally created to fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it, we now have a second mandate to subdue sin and have dominion over it!
There was a way out. God always provides a way out.
1 Corinthians 10:13 || 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. [NLT]
God does not tempt us, rather he provides a way for us to avoid the temptation. God will show us how to avoid it or get out – the question is whether we will follow him or choose to be dragged away by our sinful desires.
It is God’s desire that we live in victory over sin.
Going back to the Torah and the story of the Exodus, God showed us in a very practical way that it has been and is his desire to free us from bondage to be his special people. God’s desire, in sending Jesus to earth was to free us from the bondage and slavery of sin!
Romans 6:15–23 || 15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. [NLT]
So, I know God does not tempt me, but I am tempted by my own evil desires and by Satan. I know that God provides a way for me to escape temptation and that God does not want me to be a slave to sin.
Escaping the Temptation Trap
Though James approaches the trap of temptation in very bleak terms at the beginning of his letter, by the end of the letter he gives us some practical advice on how to escape the temptation trap.
Here are some things that we can do to resist temptation:
James 4:7–10 || 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. [NLT]
- Humble yourself. Place yourself under the control of God. Accept that his ways are best and commit to following HIS way and not your own. When the Holy Spirit is convicting you that what you want to do is wrong – humble yourself and listen!
- Resist. Long live the resistance! Take an active stance against the temptation. If you struggle with lust, block those things that tempt you, etc.
- Get near God. To resist is to stand against. That is what you are choosing NOT to do. To draw near to God is what you choose stand FOR, and it is what you are choosing TO DO. It is not enough to simply stand against the temptation, you must also choose to stand FOR the thing that honors God. The BEST thing is to commit to being with God and learning what GOD desires and how it is different from the desire that wants to drag you away.
- Repent. The path of sin is death. However, there is always a way out. There is always a fresh start.
If I am on a diet, that is not a God-given mandate of how to live. I have set a personal goal of losing weight or eating healthy. So, when I am tempted by that piece of cheesecake I have not sinned, I am just being challenged. My desire may even consume me, and I may comsume a piece of cheesecake. My desires led me to action. In this case I have only violated my own rules so I may simply forgive/pardon my offense with a statement like, “Everyone needs a cheat day now and then”.
When I am tempted to sin, and I give in, I have violated God’s rules and I need his pardon, his forgiveness. That is what confession offers.
James 5:16 || 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. [NLT]
It is never too late to stop sinning, but the longer we walk in the trench of sin, the longer we continue in the ways that are opposite of God, the farther we get from God.
James 5:19–20 || 19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. [NLT]
We need to resist the temptation from the devil. We need to recognize our position in Jesus and we need to not give in to the desires of our flesh. We need to subdue sin, like God command Cain to do. This starts with our MINDSET.
Romans 6:11 || 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. [NLT]
** read all of Romans 6 when you have the time!
A dead lion has no bite. If I am dead to sin it has no bite, no grip, to hold on me.
What if we do give in to temptation? We confess to each other and to God. We are given an awesome gift of confession and repentance that allows us to be vulnerable and broken with each other and to come broken to God to be healed and restored.
1 John 1:9 || 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. [NLT]
At any point in that downward spiral to death we have the choice to repent. To confess our sin to God and ask him to forgive us.
TAKE HEART: You might fell like your sin is too great to be forgiven. That in and of itself is an arrogance and pride you need to repent of, because it is saying that you are more powerful that God. God’s grace and forgiveness is greater than our repeated shortcomings!
As we wrap up this passage, let’s look at verses 16-18
James 1:16–18 || 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. [NLT]
Don’t be deceived. God is not a cruel God that tries to set us up for failure to see if we can be strong enough to resist. Every good and perfect thing comes from God.
By His choice he gave us new birth – birth into his family and into a life of righteousness. Not birth into sin – that came from Adam. He did this so we can be a special offering to God, a prized gift to God!
Because of the gift we are to God, we should put aside our evil desires and live a life that honors Him.
In James’ very direct way, he tells us in this passage that we are saved, given new birth as a gift from God so we can live in a way that is a gift TO God. That means we need to stop living for our own satisfaction and glorification and live as servants of God to satisfy Him and bring glory to his name.