Summary: This sermon examines three attitudes that will help you handle temptation.
If we are to handle temptation there are three attitudes we must adopt.
1. The first attitude is to see the cause of the temptation. Apparently some people, to whom James wrote, were blaming God for their temptation. James says “No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.” (vs. 13-14 NRSV) God is sometimes given the blame for temptation. James says we should not blame God. We humans have a tendency to place blame for our decisions. When facing temptation we can place blame or see the real cause.
A. We can place blame on one of four causes when tempted.
(1) We can blame God. The reasoning might be “since God made me he made me with a tendency to sin. Therefore, God is at fault for my temptation to sin.”
(2) We can blame Satan. In Genesis 3 Eve blamed the serpent. (see vs. 13)
(3) We can blame others. In Genesis 3 Adam blamed Eve. (see vs. 12)
(4) We can blame circumstances. In Exodus 32 when the Israelites made the Golden calf they sinned against God. When God confronted Aaron, he blamed the circumstances surrounding their situation for the sin. We might hear other excuses such as: “I couldn’t help it.” “It was just a mistake.” “Nobody’s perfect.” “I didn’t know it was wrong.” “I was pressured into it.”
B. We can place blame or accept the cause as being inner motivated. James said “But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.” (vs. 14 NRSV) James uses two words that are enlightening. They are taken from the outdoor world.
The first word is the word “lure”. This word is variously translated “led”, “drawn”, or “lured” as translated in the RSV. This word is used in hunting to describe a bait or trap. James’s point is that “temptation” lures us to sin. It comes from within.
The second word is the word “enticed.” This word is used in fishing to describe a fish bait. Both of these words portray an enticement. We sin because our hearts are enticed to sin. That is the source of the blame, not God.
This is a good place for us to discuss the difference between a “temptation” and a “trial.” The same word is used in James to describe both temptation and trial. How do you determine the difference between a temptation and a trial? The difference is attitude. A temptation is an enticement to sin. A trial is a growing experience. It does not pull you down. It builds you. It depends on what you do with it. Jesus was tempted (Mt. 4) but his temptation became a trial that prepared Him for further service.
2. The second attitude is to see the course it takes. John MacArthur shares a helpful outline in his commentary on James. He says temptation makes a five step progression.
A. There is desire. James uses the word “lust.” to describe this desire. Sin begins with a desire. The desire in and of itself is not bad. There is nothing wrong with sexual desire. It is a God given desire. It becomes wrong when it is used in an inappropriate manner. There is nothing wrong with the desire for food. It is a God given desire. It becomes wrong when it leads to gluttony. Our desires are not wrong. It is the steps that follow that lead to a downfall.
B. There is deception. James speaks of being “drawn” or “enticed” into sin. Sin entices in much the same way a bass fisherman entices a bass to take the lure. The bass is deceived into thinking the lure is harmless.
C. There is design. Once deceived the sinner determines a way to follow the lustful thoughts. Temptation could be described as window shopping. Yielding is when you decide to enter the store.
D. There is disobedience. Disobedience occurs when one goes against the guidance of God. Disobedience occurs when one neglects the still small voice within us.
E. There is death. God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed they would die. They did not die physically. They died spiritually.
Temptation leads us on a down hill path. It grows progressively worse.
3. The final attitude is to see the corrective. James points us toward God. The correction for temptation is not positive thinking, self help books, people’s advice or will power. The corrective to temptation is the power of a loving God and His enabling grace. James touches on two aspects of God’s power.
A. First, James discusses God’s goodness. He says “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (vs. 17 RSV) God is a good and gracious God. He does not tempt people to sin. Theology is a strong force. A right attitude toward God gives us strength to face temptation. If we see Him as a friend and helper we gain strength from our beliefs.