Summary: Temptation comes to all of us. But, like Christ, we can counteract temptation and resist it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
James 1:2-4, 12-17
Is there anyone who has not been tempted to sin this week? If so, you may leave now.
You can go straight to Braums.
One of the truly great historical characters was Mark Antony. He was known as the “silver-throated orator of Rome.” He was a brilliant statesman, magnificent in battle, courageous, and strong. And he was handsome. As far as personal qualities are concerned, he could have become a world ruler. But he had the very vulnerable and fatal flaw of moral weakness, so much so that on one occasion his personal tutor shouted into his face, “Oh Marcus! Oh colossal child! Able to conquer the world, but unable to resist temptation.”
That’s what I want us to think about tonight. To address the struggles of the saints and not mention temptation would be both unrealistic and incomplete.
• Why is temptation so “successful”?
• What makes it work?
• How can we handle it?
Can we learn something that Mark Antony never did ~~~ how to resist it?
There’s a definite difference between trials and temptations. Trials are ordeals ~~~ tests of our faith. Normally, there is nothing immoral involved in experiencing a trial. A trial is a hardship, an ordeal. But it is generally not something that is evil or brought about by evil. James 1:2-3 addresses the problem of trials. “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James goes on through verse 12 writing about trials. But, in verse 13 he speaks of temptation. “Let no one say when he is tempted.’
When you consider the trials of Job or Elisha, nothing immoral brought about their trials. When John was banished to the Isle of Patmos, it was not for moral wrongdoing. He was tested by being removed from all that he knew and called dear. It was a trial.
But when we get to temptation, it’s different. That’s why in 1:13, the verse includes the word “tempted.” Although it is the same Greek word we have read in vv. 1-12, in the writer’s mind it meant something different. It changed from the idea of an ordeal to the idea of soliciting evil.
Temptation, according to the dictionary, is ”the act of enticement to do wrong by the promise of pleasure or gain.” That’s right! Temptation motivates you to be bad by promising something good. Isn’t that just like the devil?
We tend to think first of the sensual aspect of temptation. If we were to ask, “What is temptation to you?” the vast majority of you would say, “It is that which is related to the lower nature, the sensual part of life; that which has to do with the lustful eye and the lustful desire of man.” That is temptation. But that isn’t all of it. We can be tempted
to gossip ... to steal ... to hold a grudge ... to lie. There are temptations of every sort.
So don’t categorize it just in the realm of sensuality, although sensual lust is the most common kind of temptation.
How Do We Counteract It?
Temptation can be counteracted very definitely by a particular act. This act is a fruit of the Spirit.
When we read Galatians 5:22-23 we read about the fruit of the Spirit; and it is a marvelous passage about what God’s Spirit does in us and what God’s Spirit produces through us. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.
The word we are looking for here is self-control. The Greek word literally means “in strength,” and that’s exactly what it is. The fruit of the Spirit is inner strength. It is frequently rendered “mastery, or the mastery of self” in extrabiblical literature.
In other words, one of the things the Spirit of God promises to do for the child of God is to enable him or her to master self, weakness, and areas of temptation. How is temptation counteracted? By self-control.
But wait a minute? Isn’t this something God does, and not something that I do? I am not able to do anything. I am only passively involved. God is actively involved because, after all, it is the fruit of the Spirit that is self-control.
I’m sure you’ve heard that kind of thinking. It sounds so right, so profound. But this subtle teaching is in error. Although self-control comes from the Spirit of God, we actively carry it out. Both the Holy Spirit and we are active! That’s an important thing to remember. It’s a team effort.
There is a teaching floating around today that if something is to be done, I passively wait on God and He does it all. I do nothing ~~ or very little. For me to get involved in it would be something “of the flesh.” That sounds so good, so pious. And technically it’s true.