Summary: What does the Bible tell us to do about our evil desires? This passage describes three attributes of God that, if we understand them, can repair evil desires.
James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Starting in verse 13 of chapter one James gives us some very helpful instruction about how to deal with temptation. I think you can summarize what he is saying in three parts:
1. Look out!
2. Look in
3. Look up
Verses 13 through 15 are a warning – look out! That thing that looks so enticing to you is a baited hook - watch out! It promises life and good gifts but it only leads to death, so be alert! A huge number of our failures are due to a simple failure to be alert. We let our guard down, we fall asleep spiritually, and the roaring lion catches us time after time.
Secondly, when you are tempted, you need to look inward to find the problem. The problem is not that person who is provoking your sin, the problem is not circumstances, it is not the devil, it is not God. With temptation, the problem is always one of your own desires that has become deceived into thinking it can get good things from sin and so it’s trying to crawl up onto the throne of your heart so that you will obey its impulses.
Kill Deceived Desires
God’s Word is constantly calling us to deal with those deceived desires. If you don’t deal with sin at that level, you will never have success. Here’s a sampling of what the Bible says about sinful desires:
Don’t conform to them (1 Pe.1:14).
Don’t gratify them (Gal.5:16).
Don’t obey them (Ro.6:12) or follow them (2 Pe.3:3, Jud.1:16, 1 Pe.4:3, and Eph.2:3).
Don’t serve them (Tit.3:3).
Don’t be drawn out and enticed by them (James 1:14, 2 Pe.2:18, 2 Tim.4:3).
And the one in Romans 13:14 is interesting: Do not make provision for them. Do not give bad desires any room to operate. Do not put yourself in contexts where it can start to get some traction.
Those are all the things we are not supposed to do with bad desires. So what are we supposed to do with them? I found five commands.
• Renounce (Tit.2:12)
• Abstain (1 Pe.2:11)
• Flee (2 Tim.2:22)
• Regard them as crucified (Gal.5:24)
• Kill them (Col.3:5)
Let’s just briefly look at each one of those.
Renounce Them (Titus 2:12)
Titus 2:12 [the grace of God] teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly desires
That word translated say no means to renounce, deny, refuse, repudiate, or disown. It points to a strong act of the will. It is a powerful, earnest, intentional, wholehearted rejection. John Piper suggests: “Say NO to every lustful thought within five seconds. And say it with the authority of Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus, NO!” You don’t have much more than five seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable. Say it out loud if you dare. Be tough and warlike. As John Owen said, ‘Be killing sin or it will be killing you.’ Strike fast and strike hard.” That is always step one in dealing with a temptation.
And notice that it says the grace of God teaches us how to say no. How does it do that? The next couple of verses go on to explain that Jesus died on the cross not just to pay for our sin, but also to prevent our sin. The cross is the double cure - saving us from both the penalty and the power of sin. When we think of Jesus desiring our purity so much that He suffered and died on the cross to enable us to say no, that gives us motivation to shout “No!” when temptation comes.
Abstain From Them (1 Pe.2:11)
1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you … to abstain from fleshy desires, which war against your soul.
That word abstain means to keep your distance - steer clear – stay away. Avoid things that will activate that desire. Don’t go near the door of her house (Pr.5:8).
Flee (2 Tim.2:22)
Run! Don’t manage it – run from it.