Summary: James, the brother of our Lord, tells us not to discouraged, drawn away or deceived when we’re tempted.
Holiness and Temptation
Text: James 1:12-18
Introduction: If you are a visitor here at CLCBC this morning, I would like to introduce you to the 8th message in a series that I have entitled, "In the World, But Not of It." This phrase was part of the content found in a prayer of our Lord’s in John 17. He asked the Father to empower Christians to live a vastly different lifestyle than that which we so often see in others. It was not a part of Christ’s request that God would take us out of the world, but that He would take the world out of us. Jesus prayer, in other words, was that the Father would make us holy men and women. With this end in mind, we’re going to look, today, at the subject of holiness and temptation.
Oscar Wilde was a famous English writer who wrote among other things, "The Importance of Being Earnest." He was considered a literary genius. He could not, however, control his passions. Wilde was once convicted of committing acts of gross indecency which included a weakness for "beautiful youths." He answered his critiques by saying, "I can resist everything, but temptation." We cringe when we consider his lifestyle, but if we’re honest, we also understand to some degree what he meant. If it were no challenge for us to resist sin, then the Bible would not even have to speak to the issue. However, we all know that it is (See Genesis 8:21), and so we find passages like the one that was read this morning from James 1. Here the brother of our Lord seeks to offer some wise counsel about the topic of temptation which we would do well to heed. Let’s take a look at it.
I. Don’t be discouraged when you’re tempted (See James 1:12-13). James presents two good reasons why you don’t have to be discouraged by temptation.
A. First, you’re not the only one who is tempted. Listen to what the text says beginning in verse 13, "When tempted..." Note that James does not say "if tempted". He knows that everyone is an expert on temptation because we all encounter it! The Apostle Paul agrees with his assessment and so reminds us that there is no temptation that has overtaken us, but such as is common to man (See 1 Corinthians 10:13). The writer of Hebrews throws in his two cents when he says, just as our Lord was tempted in every way, so also are we (See Hebrews 4:15). Why these admissions? They wanted us to realize that only a fool would believe that he or she is immune to temptation. If the Lord Jesus was tempted by the Devil to rebel against God, it stands to reason that we, as His disciples, can be as well. As one man said, "Temptations are sure to ring your doorbell, but you don’t have to invite them in to dinner."
B. Second, God doesn’t have it in for you. Unfortunately, there are some people who blame God for the temptations they face and the resulting sinful actions (See Genesis 3:12). James is forced to clear up this misconception. When it comes to sin, there are at least a couple of things that the Almighty God of the universe cannot do. First, He can’t be tempted to sin. God is absolutely holy and perfect in every way (See Psalm 18:30a). He is not like human beings who are born with a sinful bent. As a matter of fact, the only way to come into His presence is to have our sin removed through the sacrifice of His Son in our place (See Hebrews 10:10). God will have nothing to do with sin. Second, He cannot tempt anyone else to sin. In the Greek, the same word is used for "trials" or "temptations." While God certainly does lead us into trials for the purpose of testing our faith (See James 1:2-4), He never entices us to do evil. Even when God hands some over to sin, it is only in response to their own evil desires (See Romans 1:24). Illustration: Preacher Ray Stedman once was tempted to steal a beautiful pewter salt and pepper shaker from a restaurant where he was having breakfast. He thought, "All I have to do is put it in my briefcase and walk away." He didn’t, of course, but the next Sunday he shared the story to illustrate that anyone can be tempted, even a preacher. A week later he received a gift in the mail. It was the pewter salt and pepper shaker. Evidently someone from his congregation heard his story, went back to the restaurant and purchased them for him. He thanked the anonymous donor and said, "I also noticed this incredible flat panel TV!" Huh, the nerve of the guy. By the way, have I told you that I was really tempted lately to steal a beautiful shotgun? Application: If you’re going through a particularly difficult temptation right now, I hope you find comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one. Even a preacher can be tempted. Remember, God isn’t the source of your temptation. The next verse reveals that.