The middle section of the first chapter of James helps us to know what to do when temptation arises. We already know that the mature Christian is patient during trial that come, which attack us from the outside. Temptations attack us from the inside. We might ask why James would connect the two.
What is the relationship between testings and temptations? Consider this, if we are not careful, testings on the outside may become temptations on the inside. When we are going through a difficult time, we may start complaining against God, questioning his love and resisting his will. It is at this point that Satan provides an opportunity to escape the difficulty (enter, temptation).
- Abraham arrived in Canaan and found a famine, and could not care for his flocks. It was an opportunity to trust God but he turned it into a temptation by running away to Egypt (Genesis 12:10).
- As Israel wandered through the wilderness, they often turned testing into temptation. Not long after God delivered them from Egypt the water ran out. After three days they found water, but it was bitter, and they began to complain against God. Testing into temptation–and they failed (Exodus 17:6, 7).
God does not want us to yield to temptation, yet he does not spare us from it. We are not God’s sheltered people, we are his scattered people.
There are three facts or barriers to consider if we are to overcome temptation:
Consider God’s Judgment (James 1:13-16): this is the negative approach; sin ends in death. Temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way, out of what we might call the will of God (eating is a good thing, while stealing food is not). We think sin as a single act while God looks at it as a process; consider Adam’s sin and what it did to the human race.
- Desire (James 1:14): lust can mean any sort of strong desire. Hunger, thirst and sex drive are all good in God’s eyes, but each can become a temptation to sin when we seek to satisfy these desires outside of the will of God (Hebrews 13:4). These desires must be our servants, not our masters.
- Deception (James 1:14): temptations never appear to be temptations at first; they are subtle. The idea is to hide the fact that it is a temptation. James uses two illustrations:
- Drawn away: like baiting a trap.
- Enticed: like baiting a hook.
- No one knowingly falls for a baited trap, because something bad is about to happen. Bait keeps us from seeing the consequences.
- Lot saw the wall watered plains beyond the Jordan (Genesis 13:10, 11).
- David looked at another man’s wife (2 Samuel 11:2).
- Jesus dealt with temptation by quoting God’s Word (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
- Disobedience (James 1:15): we move from emotions (desire) to the intellect (deception) to the will. Christian living is a matter of the will, many times we don’t feel like reading the Bible or praying. This explains why immature Christians easily fall into temptation, they let their feelings make decisions. Exercise (Philippians 2:12, 13).
- Death (James 1:15): disobedience gives birth to death, not life. It may take years to mature but the end is sure. James gives four stages of temptation, in Genesis three:
- Desire to interest Eve (Genesis 3:5, 6)
- Deception blinded Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3) it appears that Adam sinned with his eyes wide open.
- Disobedience by acting (Romans 5:12-21, 1 Timothy 2:12-15).
- Death to us all (Genesis 2:17, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, Revelation 20:11-15).
Consider God’s Goodness (James 1:17): this is the positive approach. The enemy tries to get us to believe that God is not for us, or want the best for us. If we believe that God is good, we don’t need anything else to meet our needs, outside of God’s will. Moses warned not to forget God’s goodness (Deuteronomy 6:10-15).
- God gives only good gifts: if it does not come from God, it is not good. If it comes from God, it is always good; even when it appears at first not to be good. Think of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
- The way God gives is good: the second phrase in this verse can be translated, “every act of giving.” Someone can give a good gift in an bad manner that is less loving. The value of a gift can be diminished by the way it is given.
- God gives constantly: the phrase “comes down” is a present participle, meaning it keeps coming down.
- God does not change: there is no shadow with the Father of Lights. He cannot change for the worse because he is holy; he cannot change for the better because he is already perfect. David remembered God’s goodness in 2 Samuel 12:7-8. Note the repetition of the word, give. God’s gifts are always better than Satan’s bargains.
Consider God’s Divine Nature (James 1:18): barrier one says look ahead; barrier two says look around; barrier three says to look within, and realize you are born from above. James picture where sin leads, to death. But our new nature leads to life, as in 1 John 3:9. Notice the characteristics of this birth:
- It is divine: Nicodemus thought he had to enter the womb a second time (John 3:4), but this birth is from above (John 3:1-7). God works a miracle when we have faith.
- It is gracious: we did not earn it or deserve it (John 1:13). No one is born again through his relative, resolutions or his religion.
- It is through God’s Word: physical birth requires to parents, spiritual birth requires two “parents” – the Word of God and the Spirit of God (John 3:6, 1 Peter 1:23, Hebrews 4:12).
- It is the best birth possible: the word, first fruits, meant something to the Jews. First fruits were brought to the Lord as an expression of devotion (Proverbs 3:9). We share God’s nature and are created in his image.
- Throughout the Bible God rejects the first born (Able over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau), so God also rejects our first birth and announces that we all need a second birth.
- This experience of new birth allows us to overcome temptation; not allowing the old nature to take over.
- The new man is to take the lead (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- When temptation knocks at the door, if I send Adam to answer the door, I will sin; if I send Jesus to answer, I will win.
God has these three barriers to protect me from temptation and sin. If we heed the warning, we will receive a crown; if we break through the barriers, we receive a coffin (James 1:15).