Stephen Caswell © 2003
Anyone who has trained a dog to obey knows this scene. A bit of meat or bread is placed on the floor near the dog and the master says, No! which the dog knows means that he must not touch it. The dog will usually take his eyes off the food, because the temptation to disobey would be too great, and instead will fix his eyes on the master’s face. That is the lesson of the dog. Always look to the Master’s face. So to the Christian ought to look to God for His needs and not to temptation.
Tonight we will look at gaining victory over temptation. In overcoming temptation James asks us to consider three things, God’s Judgment, God’s Goodness and God’s Nature.
Firstly, Consider God’s Judgment
a. Difference between Trials & Temptation
James 1:12-13: Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
A few weeks ago we looked at triumphing over trials. Tonight I want to look at overcoming temptation. The two are similar and it is easy to view them as the same. Yet in meaning the two must be carefully distinguished. A trial is an outward circumstance that can pose difficulties to our faith. Job went through a severe trial and endured it. A temptation is the inner enticement to sin. David was tempted to sin with Bathsheba and was overcome by it. Trials and temptations can both lead to sin. It is not wrong to suffer like Job did. What’s wrong is to charge God. The very thing Job’s wife told him to do.
Temptations are not sinful until we entertain them. We can’t avoid every kind of temptation. But we can decide what we will do about it. We need to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. We need to reject the temptation at the outset. If we do this we will avoid sin in our heart and in our bodies. David saw and coveted his neighbor’s wife. He desired Bathsheba and then he took her and committed adultery. What James is concerned about is that his readers will confuse these two and attribute temptation to God. Scripture indicates that God does test or put his people through trials. God arranges trials to come our way. He also allows temptations to come our way. But, James emphatically asserts, God never tempts his people. If God tempted us He would be the originator of sin instead of Satan.
Ja 1:14: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
People are tempted to sin from within by our sinful nature. The word desire ἐπιθυμία means lust, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden.
The normal desires of life were given to us by God and, of themselves, are not sinful. 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 God’s will that we get into trouble. The Bible says that gluttony, drunkenness, sexual immorality and slothfulness are sinful. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
John 2:16 tells us that there are three areas of temptation we must deal with, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. When you examine the sins of Eve, Achan and David you can see these three sources of temptation at work. Any one of them can lead us into sin. Genesis 3:6 says: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Eve saw the forbidden tree and was lured into sin. David, a man of God, did the same when he sinned with Bathsheba. Today, more than ever, Satan is tempting people through their eyes. I recently read an article by Chuck Swindoll of a secret problem lurking in our Churches. The most recent studies indicate that 50% of people sitting in our Church pews are looking at or could be addicted to Internet Pornography. This temptation confronts all ages as most have internet access. The most at risk are young adults and young married’s.
Beloved we must be on our guard. You don’t have to go looking to find pornography; it comes into your home via the Internet, Television and Videos. Because of this we must be extra careful. We should monitor the programs our children watch on computer games DVD’s and the Internet. Young people need boundaries too when it comes to watching friends, movies and music. James Dobson advises not to allow your children to have TV, Stereos and Computers in their own bed rooms. They should not be allowed to use these powerful forms of media without adult supervision. Job said this in 31:1: I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman. Let’s stop sin at its source by exercising our will and guarding our minds from evil desires.
Ja 1:14: but each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
I like to go fishing. It’s one of those hobbies that you get more out of it than catching something; you get to eat what you catch. However fish are pretty smart or at least the ones that come my way are. So to catch them you have to trick them. An empty hook won’t work; you have to offer the fish something they want, like prawns, worms or meat. The bait conceals the dangerous hook underneath. After the fish swallows the bait you sink the hook. The idea is one of deception and guile. That’s what Satan does to us.
The word enticed δελεάζω means to catch with bait, to set a trap, allure, entice, deceive.
Sin begins with evil desires and thoughts but when left unchecked leads to deeds. The tragic thing about sin is that the consequences of sin are usually hidden or minimized. That is the deceptive nature of evil. Satan highlights the pleasures whilst covering up the consequences. The word enticed reveals how the Devil does this. When tempting Eve, Satan first questioned God’s Word and later denied it. He appealed to Eve’s pride. He promised her that she would be like God. A promise that was far from true. Satan deceived Eve. 2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
James 1:15: Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
What starts as a thought ends with an action. Eve saw and desired, she was deceived and took. David saw and desired was deceived or enticed and took. Their desires were wrong and when they acted upon them they brought forth sin. This is why Jesus says that sin start in the heart. Mark 7:21: For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murder, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man. Jesus said that to look lustfully at a woman was to commit adultery in your heart. David found this to be true. Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny!
Christian living is a matter of the will, not the feelings. I often hear believers say, I don’t feel like reading the Bible. Or, I don’t feel like attending prayer meeting. Children operate on the basis of feeling, but adults operate on the basis of will. They act because it is right, no matter how they feel. When it comes to overcoming temptation we must choose to do what is right. We need to surrender our will to God. The more you exercise your will in saying a decisive no to temptation, the more God will take control of your life. Philippians 2:13: For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Christians should choose in advance to say no to drugs, sexual immorality, pornography and drinking. The Bible clearly states these things are wrong.
James 1:15: Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Eve disobeyed God by taking the fruit of the tree and eating it. Then she shared it with her husband, and he disobeyed God. Because Adam was not deceived, but sinned with his eyes wide open, it is his sin that plunged the human race into tragedy. Both Adam and Eve experienced immediate spiritual death, separation from God, and ultimate physical death. All men die because of Adam. The person who dies without Jesus Christ will experience eternal death, the lake of fire.
Whenever you are faced with temptation, get your eyes off the bait and look ahead to see the consequences of sin: the judgment of God. For the wages of sin is death. Sin brings nothing but sorrow and death. David’s sin resulted in tragedy. The baby that was conceived died. The sword that David used to kill Uriah took three of his own sons. David’s testimony was permanently smeared. Too often believers reap the consequences of forgiven sins.
Stuntman’s Plaything Changes Role
A noted wild beast tamer gave a superb performance in London. As a closing act, he introduced a boa constrictor, 35 feet long, which he handled for 25 years from the time it was only two or three years old. He supposed it to be harmless. The curtain rose on an Indian woodland scene. A rustling noise is heard and a huge serpent is seen winding its way through the undergrowth. It stops. Its head is erect. Its bright eyes sparkle. Its whole body seems animated. A man emerged from the heavy foliage. Their eyes meet. The serpent quails before the man. Man is victor.
Under the man’s signals and guidance, the serpent performs a series of frightening feats. At another signal, it slowly approaches the man and begins to coil its heavy foils around him. Higher and higher they rise, until man and serpent seem blended into one. Its hideous head is reared above the man. The man gives a little scream and the audience unites in a thunderous applause, but it freezes upon their lips. The trainer’s scream was a wail of death agony. Those cold, slimy folds had embraced him for the last time. They had crushed the life out of him. The horror stricken audience heard bone after bone cracked. Man’s plaything had become his master. This is how sin works it turns from a playful desire into an executioner bring death.
Now that we have seen the awful consequences of sin, how do we overcome it? The Lord Jesus Christ was tempted and he didn’t sin. How did he defeat the Devil? By believing God’s Word, and using it like a sword. When Eve was tempted she didn’t trust God’s Word. If you look at Genesis 2 & 3 you find that she added to God’s Word, subtracted from it and didn’t believe it. Satan knew God’s Word better than she did. This is why Satan was able to deceive her. On the other hand Christ quoted from the Bible to defeat Satan. He used the Scripture that was appropriate for the temptation. Ephesians 6:17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
The Lord also spent a good deal of time in prayer and commanded us to do the same. Matthew 6:13 says: and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. When we are tempted we should pray asking God for His help to overcome it. When we do this He is faithful to provide a way to escape it.
Beloved are you guarding your mind from Satan’s temptations? Are you careful what you allow into your home via the Internet, TV, Videos and Music? Do you deal with temptations at the start or play with them? Are you using God’s Word and praying for God’s help to find the way of escape?
Secondly, Consider God’s Goodness
a. He Gives Good Gifts
James 1:16-17: Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
James wants us to know that there is a huge difference between God’s gifts and Satan’s temptations. Satan’s temptations may provide enjoyment for a season but in the long run they bring death. Satan promised them divinity but in fact gave them death. Sin will always lead you further than you want to go. The Lord had provided them a garden paradise to live in and had placed the world at their feet. God gave Adam and Eve only one commandment to keep. Yet they disobeyed the Lord and tried to gain something more. They lost the dominion they had over the world. They were expelled from their garden paradise. Adam and Eve and all humanity plunged into darkness and death.
Unlike the Devil’s temptations which lead to death, God’s gifts are good. There are no adverse consequences when God provides. Whenever God gives people something His blessings follow. God’s gifts carry no deception, they are pure. He is the Father of lights. Satan is the prince of darkness. God has given us life and light and every thing we need for life and godliness. The goodness of God is a great barrier against yielding to temptation. Since God is good, we do not need any other person (including Satan) to meet our needs. It is better to be hungry in the will of God than full outside His will. Once we start to doubt God’s goodness, we will be attracted to Satan’s offers; and the natural desires within will reach out for his bait.
I Don’t Want To Hurt My Father
A group of teenagers were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to a certain restaurant for a good time. I’d rather you took me home, Jan said to her date. My parents don’t approve of that place. Afraid your father will hurt you? One of the girls asked sarcastically. No, Jan replied, I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him. She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.
James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
b. He Gives Continuously
Comes down is a present participle: it keeps on coming down. God does not give occasionally; He gives constantly. God will continue to do so because He is unchangeable. Unlike the sun, moon, stars, and planets, which regularly move and change their appearance, God never changes. Even when we do not see His gifts, He is sending them. How do we know this? Because God tells us in His Word. Acts 14:17 says: Nevertheless God did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
If King David had remembered the goodness of the Lord, he would not have taken Bathsheba and committed those terrible sins. At least this is what Nathan the prophet told the king. Thus says the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; and I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Note the repetition of the word give in this brief statement. God had been continuously giving to David, yet David forgot God’s goodness and took the bait.
When you are tempted to sin remember that God gives good gifts. There are no harmful consequences to His gifts; only blessings. He will supply all your needs. Will you look to Him when you are tempted? Will you remember how much He loves you and provides for you? Will you determine not to hurt the Lord through your sin?
Thirdly, Consider God’s Nature
a. It Is Divine
James 1:18: Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
As an outstanding example of God’s good gifts, James cites the new, spiritual birth that Christians have experienced. This new birth, or regeneration, is motivated solely by the will of God. Salvation is a gift of God. We are saved by grace. God’s love to us was unmerited, unbought and unsought. It was entirely voluntary on His part. This should cause us to worship! He brought us forth — this describes the fact of the new birth. By this spiritual birth we become His children — a relationship that can never be changed since a birth can never be undone. The conception of lust gives birth to sin and death. But the new birth gives birth to eternal life in God’s family. The new birth also enables us to conquer temptation through the Spirit’s help.
1 John 4:4: You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
2 Peter 1:2-4: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
If we ask the Lord for help in times of temptation the Holy Spirit will strengthen us. Christ understands our weaknesses and wants to help us. Hebrews 4:15-16: For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
b. It Is Through God’s Word
Salvation is accomplished through the word of truth, the gospel. Through the Gospel God is bringing into being a new creation saved by Jesus Christ. Two parents are required to bring forth a child. The new birth also requires two parents, the Spirit of God and the Word of God. In every genuine case of conversion, the Scriptures are involved, whether orally or in printed form. Apart from the Bible, we would not know the way of salvation. Indeed, we would not even know that salvation was available or necessary!
Are you availing yourself of the Spirit’s help? He is able to help you overcome temptation because He is greater than the Devil. Are you living as a child of God?
Tonight we saw that overcoming temptation requires the right mindset. James asks us to consider three things, God’s Judgment, God’s Goodness and God’s Nature.
Jude 24-25: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.