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"How Trials Turn into Temptations"
James 1:13-15

Wednesday AM Bible Study
April 30, 2003

Someone once put the thrust of much pop-psychology into a song:

I went to my psychiatrist to be psychoanalyzed
To find out why I killed the cat and blackened by husband's eyes.
He laid me on a downy couch to see what he could find,
And here is what he dredged up from my subconscious mind:
When I was one, my mommie hid my dolly in a trunk,
And so it follows naturally that I am always drunk.
When I was two, I saw my father kiss the maid one day,
And that is why I suffer now from kleptomania.
At three, I had the feeling of ambivalence toward my brothers,
And so it follows naturally I poison all my lovers.
But I am happy; now I've learned the lesson this has taught;
That everything I do that's wrong is someone else's fault.

We will never be able to grow in Christ until we are realistic about the problem of temptation and sin in our lives. Genesis 3 illustrates the truth for us. Adam and Eve had only one command to keep (2:15-17); but they disobeyed it (3:1-7). Immediately, they began to lay the blame on someone other than themselves (vv. 8-13). James, in this morning's passage, makes us face the truth about temptation in our lives. He is speaking in the context of "trials" (vv. 1-12); and helps us to see that we can let these trials become temptations to sin by allowing our own sinful desires to rule over us.

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted byevil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone" (v. 13).

A. When confronted with the fact of sin, we can easily resort to passing the blame on to God - just as our first parents did. Do any of these "excuses" sound familiar?
1. "God controls all that comes to pass; and He could have stopped me if He wished" (Rom. 9:19).

2. "I was driven to sin by the circumstances that God put me in" (1 Cor. 10:13).

3. "God made me with these desires and drives. I can't help myself" (Rom. 1:18-24).

B. All these efforts to shift the blame fail to take the true nature of God into account.

1. He cannot be tempted by evil (1 John 1:5; Isa. 6:3).

2. He Himself tempts no one with evil. "His absolute blessedness, His infinite holiness, remove Him wholly from liability to temptation; and as thus, from His very nature, He cannot be tempted to sin, so, from His very nature, He cannot tempt to sin" (Robert Johnstone, Lectures on the Epistle of James, p. 62).

C. In all that he has affirmed so far in his letter, James shows us that God - far from being the source of temptation - permits us to experience trials and tests so that we would grow more into the image of Christ.

"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (v. 14-15).

A. We turn those trials into temptations by our own lusts. James uses the analogy of trapping an animal to describe the process:
1. We are "drawn away" - as when an animal is lured away from its safe path by bate. This is how Satan tempted Eve.

2. We, being drawn away, are "enticed" - as when the animal is tempted to take the bate. Note how Eve thought about the fruit in the temptation in the garden!

3. Satan is thus simply an opportunistk. He cannot make us sin. He simply tempts us away and we sin on our own - being drawn by the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16).

B. James then changes the metaphor. He switches from an animal drawn into a trap, to a description of becoming seduced.

1. Lust "conceives" when a decision is made to act - just as Eve chose to take and eat.

2. Lust having "conceived", it brings forth a child called "sin".

3. "Sin", becoming full grown, brings forth "death" (Rom. 6:23).

C. In all this, it's important to remember that the temptation to sin is not itself sin. It only becomes sin when it is "conceived" through a decisive act on our part.

* * * * * * * * * *

God allows trials to come into our life to make us grow. But they become "temptations" when we allow our fleshly desires to rule over us -- carrying us away and enticing us to gratify those desires in a way that is contrary to God's will. James is here is showing us how to deal with temptation. He reveals its source -- our desires; and thus, by forcing us to take the responsibility for sin, he helps facilitate our growth in Christ.

How can we deal with temptation when we see it arising in us during a time of testing? By ...

A. Making sure to greet every trial as a "test of faith" that God sends to "perfect" us (James 1:2-4).

B. Making a habit of "storing up" God's Word in our hearts - that is, memorizing Scripture and meditating on it (Psalm 119:11).

C. Striving, when temptation comes, to take the "way of escape" that God promises to always provided (1 Cor. 10:13).

D. Being diligent to "put to death" or "mortify" the "deeds of the flesh" (Rom. 8:13), by ...

1. "Abstaining" from fleshly lusts (1 Pet. 2:11).

2. Making "no provision for the flesh" (Rom. 13:14).

3. Present the members of your body to God as "instruments of righteousness" (Rom. 6:12-13).

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