Tuesday, April 25, 2006

James 1:13-18 Resisting Temptation (Part 3)

James 1:13-18 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. [17] Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. [18] Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Today we are going to examine the second of three keys for resisting temptation. If we are going to resist temptation we must understand its course.

I want to remind you of the fact that temptation is common to every person and it is no sin to be tempted. The trouble comes when we desire what temptation offers more than we desire God. This is the very essence of sin. As John Piper says, "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him." Sin is the result of seeking to find satisfaction in someone or something else.

Dietrich Bonheoffer, in his book entitled Temptation, describes how temptation can extinguish our desire for God:

With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. . . . It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money. . . . Joy in God is . . . extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; . . . Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. . . . The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. The questions present themselves: “Is what the flesh desires really sin in this case?” “Is it really not permitted to me, yes — expected of me, now, here, in my particular situation, to appease desire?” . . . It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.

Folks this is so true! When we are overwhelmed by desire we distance ourselves from God. We become idolaters who have forgotten our true identity as God’s children. We willfully ignore the pleadings and judgments of His Word.

What happens after we give into temptation and sin is conceived? Sin gives birth to death. Usually when we think of death, we first think of physical death. Sin always leads to physical death. This is why we all die. This has been true since the Garden of Eden when Adam’s sin brought death into the world.

Sin also leads to spiritual death if one fails to trust in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s cross. But I believe death can manifest itself in other ways that we often fail to recognize. For example, the children of Israel, whom God delivered from Egypt, experienced a type of “death” that we would not necessarily categorize as physical or spiritual. If you know your Old Testament, you will remember this generation of Israelites refused to trust God and enter the Promised Land. Because of their sin of unbelief, God caused them to wander around in the wilderness for forty years. For forty years they went around in circles and they were “dead” long before they actually died. Their lives were wasted because of their sin. They missed forever the opportunity to enjoy God’s provision of the Promised Land.

When we give into temptation and sin is conceived, “death.” will always result. We all have observed what I am describing and most of us have first hand experience. Our sin has led to the death of trust, integrity, relationships and future opportunities. We continue to grieve these loses. Yes, we thank God for His mercy, grace and forgiveness, but we must live with the consequences of succumbing to various temptations.

Painful memories of lessons like these motivate me to resist temptation. I have learned through failure and God’s revelation that the course of temptation is always “death.” I have experienced enough “death” in my life. How about you?

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