Sunday, April 23, 2006

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

James 1:13-18 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. [14] But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. [15] Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. [16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. [17] Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. [18] In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

Along with every trial or test that God designs for our spiritual growth comes temptation. The original recepients of this letter would have been faced with some very specific temptations. Hopefully you remember that the recipients of James letter were Jewish Christians who became refugees due to intense persecution. They fled Jerusalem and Judea to escape, but many of them continued to suffer for their faith in the various places to which they scattered. What kind of temptations did these refugees face? For one, they would have been tempted to give up on or turn away from Christianity. This is always a temptation when persecution arises. The book of Hebrews was written primarily to deal with this very issue; Jewish Christians who were contemplating a return to Judaism because of persecution.

A second temptation these Christians would have faced would have been to grumble and complain about God. “If God is good and loves me why is he allowing me to suffer?” “God this is not fair, I don’t deserve this!” “Life was so much easier before I became a Christian.” We see this kind of response illustrated by the Israelites in the wilderness after the Exodus. Grumbling and complaining always reveal that we doubt God’s goodness.

Another temptation for these refugees of persecution would have been to blame God for their failure to respond properly to the testing and falling into sin. Folks, this is a temptation that has marked humanity from the beginning. Remember the scene in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed his sin on Eve and God. Eve blamed her sin on the serpent.

One of the most frustrating things about ministry is the number of people I meet who refuse to take responsibility for their behavior. “It’s my parent’s fault.” “It’s my boss’s fault.” “It’s my pastor’s fault.” “It’s God’s fault! He made me this way! If He didn’t want me to do this or that He shouldn’t have put me in this situation.” I have met Christians who have blamed God for almost every kind of sin you can imagine.

The thing that bugs me most about modern psychology is that it seeks to relieve people of responsibility for their behavior. Modern psychology has renamed numerous sins and called them disorders. Instead of holding people responsible, which is the first step to change, they have given them excuses to continue their sinful behavior. A person who makes excuses is trying to shift blame from himself to something or someone else. A Christian, on the other hand, accepts responsibility for their sins, confesses them, and asks God for forgiveness.

We must have a correct view of God in order to persevere during times of trial and testing. Additionally, we must understand God’s view of our temptations. Trials and temptations always present us with choices. God wants us to make righteous choices, not evil ones. It is important for us to always remember that God tests people for good; He does not tempt people for evil.

We’ll talk more about this tomorrow. Are you resisting temptation? Are you making excuses?

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