Summary: Temptation offers us many choices that might distract us from serving God. We have the choice to follow God because of one ultimate choice God made on our behalf.
Recently I heard about a middle school in Oregon that faced a unique problem. It seems that a number of girls there were going into the bathrooms and putting on their lipstick. After they put it on their lips, they pressed their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints. I guess they thought it was kind of cute, but as you can imagine it was a nightmare for the janitors. Finally the principal decided something had to be done. She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained that the lip prints caused a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. To demonstrate how difficult it was, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. As the girls watched, the janitor took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into the toilet, and scrubbed the mirror. That little demonstration had amazing results. Since then there have been no lip prints on any of the mirrors in that school. (from PreachingToday.com)
What that principle was doing for those girls was little bit like what James is trying to do for us in the passage we are going to look at this morning. He wants us to think about what we are doing. He is convinced that if we understand a little more about the nature of sin, we are going to be less likely to be so cozy with it. Let’s look at what he has to say.
Text: James 1:13-18
As we look at those verses this morning, I want us to follow the line of thought that James is leading us through. At first, those verses almost seem like random, unconnected thoughts, but there is a critical connection between the things that James is telling us. He wants to make sure that when we face the choice between right and wrong in our life, we do so understanding both the nature of sin, and the choice that God made on our behalf. Let’s look closely at what he’s telling us.
1. He Warns Us About Death’s Slippery Slope. (vv. 13-15)
James has been talking about trials, suffering and hard times in previous verses. Now the thought changes from trials to temptations. Understand, trials and temptations are different things, but they are related to one another.
Trials are external circumstances that challenge our happiness. (death of someone close, loss of job, financial crisis, loneliness, health problems) They are the tough things that happen to us that we usually can’t do anything about.
Temptations on the other hand, are often the internal response to want to do wrong things in light of those tough situations. (when going through a financial crisis you are tempted to get money through illegitimate means, when suffering from problems you are tempted to escape by means of alcohol or illicit drug use, when you are bored or hurt in your marriage you are tempted to find an avenue other than your spouse to satisfy your need for intimacy) Though temptation isn’t always connected to trials, they become way more powerful and seductive when that is the case.
James points out that there is a process in the way we fall into sin. The process begins with a routine desire. We have them all the time. You may be having one right now. Are your eyes getting heavy? Is your stomach growling? Your body has desires that are natural, even God-ordained. These routine desires are created within us to make sure that we take care of our needs. We have a desire for intimacy, a desire for fulfillment (physical and emotional), a desire for pleasure. There is absolutely nothing wrong with routine desire in your life. James warns us though, that we can be drawn away from God’s side by our desires. He tells us that because he wants us to understand that temptation is something that takes place within us. You can’t blame temptation on anyone or anything else, because it’s not something that happens on the outside, but on the inside. He uses some graphic language to catch our attention. The words "dragged away" and "enticed" are the language of hunting and fishing.
Let me explain. You decide to go fishing. How many of you go to the bait shop and buy bait and then throw it in the water? Nobody, unless your goal is to feed the fish. But if your plan is to catch a fish, you put a hook in the bait. The idea is that when the fish sees the bait he’s stupid enough not to know there’s a hook in it. Because he has been drawn out of where he was safe, he takes the bait with the hook in it and gets captured. Now, did the worm or the minnow have any power to capture that fish? I’ve never seen a fishing worm grab a fish, wrestle it around and throw it in a boat, have you. No, on its own that bait had no power except that which the fish gave it. What gets the fish caught isn’t the power of the bait, but the desire of the fish.