What is your favorite soda? Classic, Diet, Cherry, etc.?
Nothing tastes quite like Zero while actually being zilch.
Coke zero is a zero sugar, zero guilt knockoff of original Coke. It is coke’s most successful product line launch in the past 22 years! The company claims the taste is almost indistinguishable from the Real Thing, but there are no calories to count. No nutritional value to speak of.
This is the Paris Hilton of sodas. Appearance without substance. Notoriety based on nothing.
This is the Seinfeld show of sodas: a soda about nothing.
Research shows that most men are turned off by feminine diet drinks and chemical tastes. Coke Zero, however, has been able to attract men.
Leave those diet colas for the sissies… real men drink Zero!
I believe that this is a great illustration for us for people of faith. This is what the world wants – not Coke Zero, but Believer Zero. The world wants believers who are shallow, indistinguishable from anyone around them with zero religion and zero back bone.
I mean – have you heard the new #1 country song called “Believers”? Joe Nichols sings a song about how people who believe are the backbone of this nation. Never mind that it is on the same album as the song entitled “Tequila makes her clothes come off”. It simply states that Believers are good, BUT… he never says what kind of believers, or what believers should believe in. He just says Believers – Hindu believers? Christian believers? Buddhist believers?
I don’t know Joe Nichols or what he intended when he wrote this song, but it seems like he is celebrating Believer Zero! It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in something.
The world may want us believers to stand for zero, but what they need is a different type. The world needs believers who are not Zeros!
The world needs people who have substance (those who believe in the atonement, the cross, the resurrection of Christ. Those who are led by the Holy Spirit and have a God-driven purpose that has both the right doctrine and the right life-style.
This is why we are studying the book of James. A book that penetrates our hearts and asks us to consider what our lives and our beliefs are really about. In fact turn with me to James 1:12. READ
This is a description of a believer with purpose:
• They have a backbone because they endure temptation
• They have a life-style that shows that they are in love with God
• They have a purpose – seeking after that crown of life
This crown of life is another more important symbol – because it comes from the Bible – that says that your life has achieved success in God’s eyes. You ran the race and you have accomplished what God has put before you.
We are to run after this crown that is given to us in the end times from our King when He says, “well done, good and faithful servant!”
James says, “this is the life that is worthy filled with purpose! This is the real thing!”
James wants us each to understand what it means to be the real thing, a real believer:
The first thing he says is to
1. ENDURE – vs. 12
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation.”
James starts this verse with the term “Blessed.” What is a blessing? What does it mean when someone sneezes and you say “God bless you.” What do you wish for them?
Blessed has to do with happiness. When you bless someone, you are wanting them to be happy.
Blessed has to do with being fortunate. When you bless someone, you are wanting them to be privileged. You want them to be lucky.
Ultimately though, blessing someone has more to do with happiness and luck. James uses the word “bless” twice in his letter (once again in 5:11). Both times he says that a man who does not give in will have God’s favor resting on them. He is saying that God is looking for those who are steadfast, who persevere, and even suffer under a load of miseries, adversities, persecutions, or provocations. When God finds that person, God prospers that man or woman. It is a life that God rewards and even cheers for.
Jesus even said in Matthew 10:22 (HCSB) - You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
We must endure, but this world throws a lot at us, doesn’t it? We have sin coming at us in all directions. We turn on the T.V. – temptation. We turn on the computer – temptation. We walk down the street – temptation. We go the beach – temptation. We go to our jobs – temptation. This past week, school let out and what happens when the kids don’t have planned activities – temptation!
But James’ words are not some ivory tower advice. You see James himself had to endure when it was tempting to give up.
In the year AD 62, Jewish Scribes and Pharisees came to James because the people were converting to Christianity. They begged James to tell the people that Jesus is not the Christ. James boldly responded - "Christ Himself sits in heaven, at the right hand of our Great God, and shall come back one day on clouds from heaven." The scribes and pharisees then said to themselves, "We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him. Accordingly, the scribes and Pharisees threw down the just man… [and] began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said: "I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
And, while they were thus stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, to whom testimony is borne by Jeremiah the prophet, began to cry aloud, saying: "Cease, what do ye? The just man is praying for us." But one among them, one of the fullers, took the staff with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man. And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. ~ Fragments from the Acts of the Church; Concerning the Martyrdom of James, the Brother of the Lord, from Book 5.
James himself had to learn the hard way to endure to the end!
To be the REAL THING, we must also:
2. EXALT GOD – vs. 13 Read
James understand that our natural tendency when we give in to temptation is to blame someone else. We like to say, “the devil made me do it!”
Some however, have a defeatist mentality and feel that they are victims. They say, “if God was so good, why did He create evil? He knows all things, so He knew I would give in. Why did you do this to me God?”
James attacks this thinking by stating clearly that God has nothing to do with evil – He doesn’t tempt anyone with it and in fact, can not be tempted to do evil.
So if temptation doesn’t come from God, where does this evil come from? Jesus answered this for in Mark 7:21-23 (ESV) - For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery… All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
Where does it come from? From inside each of us!
In fact, someone this week showed me a verse in the Bible that totally describes where our temptation comes from. Look at: Psalm 32:1-2 (ESV) - Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
In one verse, you get four words that describe the evil within us:
• Transgression – It’s a deliberate, intentional, willful decision to break the law.
• Sin – guilty wrongdoing that is revolt against God. In fact James tells us that failure to what is good is even sin in James 4:17. It is missing the mark of what God wants for us.
• Iniquity – It’s the basic disposition to do my own thing. To wander against God. This is our defect that makes us hostile against God.
• Deceit – This is my Spiritual Deception - my eyes are blind to the fact that I need a Savior.
This is the evil that lurks in us: transgression, sin, iniquity, and deceit. James warns us that we must not be people who blame God, nor even the devil. He instead wants us to lift God up, to not tear down His name.
Don’t go blaming God for your screw ups. Instead, exalt God with your life.
James, once again, here practiced what he preached. History tells us that James had two nick-names:
• Ol’ Camel Knees – his knees were reputed to be so hard that they looked like a camel’s, because he was down on his knees praying.
• James the Just – after the resurrection, every aspect of his life was dedicated to God – his clothing, his eating, and even his bathing. All went to God. This earned him the nickname in the early church “The Just”. Justice oozed from him! (See Jerome's quote of Hegesippus' account of James from the fifth book of Hegesippus' lost Commentaries)
Here was a guy who never blamed God, but exalted God every chance he could.
To be the REAL THING, we must: Endure, Exalt God, and…
3. EXAMINE WHAT COULD HAPPEN – READ vs. 14-15
Right here in these two verses, James gives us the four stages of temptation.
1. First it begins with DESIRE
The normal desires of life were given to us by God and, of themselves, are not sinful. Without these desires, we could not function. Unless we felt hunger and thirst, we would never eat and drink, and we would die. Without fatigue, the body would never rest and would eventually wear out. Sex is a normal desire; without it the human race could not continue. It is when we want to satisfy these desires in ways outside of God’s will that we get into trouble. Eating is normal; gluttony is sin. Sleep is normal; laziness is sin.
Hebrews 13:4 (ESV) says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
Our desires, if not kept in check, can bring harm. In fact in chapter 4, verse 2, James tells us that these can even end in murder. Desire is the first stage.
2. Then we move from Desire to DECEPTION.
No temptation appears as temptation; it always seems more alluring than it really is. James used two illustrations from the world of sports to prove his point. Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap; and enticed in the original Greek means “to bait a hook.” The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap and no fish will knowingly bite at a naked hook. The idea is to hide the trap and the hook.
We too are led astray by temptation. “Man! It looks so good!” And yet that is when the temptation that lies within us has us trapped! This bait leads us astray and all of a sudden we are doing what we don’t want to do. No one is immune to this.
3. This deception then gives birth to “sin”, or DISOBEDIENCE.
Here we have moved from our emotions (our desires) and from our intellect (the deception) and moved to the will.
It starts in our heart, moves to our mind, and then to our will. We are doing what God does not want us to do and we are doing the very evil that we don’t want.
Psalm 7:14 (LB) - The wicked man conceives an evil plot, labors with its dark details, and brings to birth his treachery and lies.
At this stage, we are missing the mark of what God expects. We are committing the crime. We are following our evil impulses, and are not doing what we should.
James says, “Take a hard look – examine the results – know where all of this leads.”
4. This disobedience leads to DEATH!
Too many times, we actually think that our little white lie, or our little hidden sin doesn’t impact anything. James says, “WATCH OUT!” When your sin is fully grown, it brings forth death!
It may take years for the sin to mature, but when it does, the result will be death. Whenever you are faced with temptation, get your eyes off the bait and look ahead to see the consequences of sin: death!
This is why Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”
The first sin is a perfect example of these stages:
• The serpent used desire to interest Eve – see: Genesis 3:5-6
• Eve was deceived – see: 2 Corinthians 11:3
• Eve disobeyed God - Notice: Adam disobeyed, with his eyes wide open - he was not deceived – see: 1 Timothy 2:12–15
Both Adam and Eve experienced immediate spiritual death (separation from God), and ultimately physical death. All men now die because of Adam.
Romans 5:12 (HCSB) - Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.
James puts it right in our face – watch out, because your temptation could lead to death! We need to examine the results of where things are headed for us.
Is the world looking for people who have death hanging over their shoulders? No! They are looking for real believers. Real believers: Endure, Exalt God, Examine the Results, and…
4. EXPECT GOD TO WORK – vs. 16-18
When we are tempted, real believers expect God to work in their lives. READ vs. 16-18
James lays out four expectations that we can have:
1. We can expect our character to get stronger. He says that two kinds of gifts are going to come down from God to us – a good gift and a perfect gift. In verse 4, James already told us that enduring produces character that is perfect and complete. Here he is saying the same thing again – if you endure, expect your character to get stronger.
I don’t know about you, but how many need that? I need my life to change and need these good and perfect gifts from God. James says that we can expect them.
2. We can expect God to be the same today, yesterday, and forever! James calls God, “the Father of Lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
It is impossible for God to change. He cannot change for the worse because He is holy; He cannot change for the better because He is already perfect. The light of the sun varies as the earth changes, but the sun itself is still shining. If shadows come between us and the Father, He did not cause them. He is the unchanging God. This means that we should never question His love or doubt His goodness when difficulties come or temptations appear.
Numbers 23:19 (NLT) - God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
3. Third, we can expect new life to spring up wherever the Bible is trusted. It is a fact: whenever someone trusts what James calls “the word of truth” the temptation that leads to death is defeated and real life is lived. Our lives bloom like a flower springing out of the ground by the word of truth!
If the Bible says it, then I can expect life to spring from it. For example:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG) - No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.
I can trust this word of truth to bring me through the tests and temptations.
4. Last, we can expect God to watch over us.
James calls us “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures,” James wrote to Jewish believers, and the word firstfruits would be meaningful to them. The Old Testament Jews brought the firstfruits to the Lord as the expression of their devotion and obedience. These Jews wanted to honor God by giving God their firstfruits (see Proverbs 3:9). James is saying that of all the creatures that God has in this universe, believers (God’s firstfruits) are His very highest and finest! God will watch over us, because we are dedicated to Him. He will always be there to help us.
Real Believers are not, and cannot, be understood to be a Zero. We are God’s chosen people. We must present to the world our Savior through our beliefs and our life-style. Jesus is not a diet Savior, just some additive to an already complete life.
No … Jesus is the original. The classic. He is “the Real Thing.”
Zero is what Jesus doesn’t offer. He offers life to the full.
John 14:6 (ESV) - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life!"
LOST? DECEIVED? DEAD SOUL? Jesus will show you the way, give you the truth, and give you the life. You must place your faith in Him!