A Brief Analysis of Some Myths about Temptation from James 1:13-15

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13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. (NET)

 Here are some myths I’ve heard people say about temptation and sin in general:

  • “The Devil made me do it!”
  • “Why is God tempting me so much?”
  • “I can’t control myself! I am what I am.”
  • “It can’t be wrong because it feels so good!”

In short, all of these are false statements and enormously detrimental to your spiritual life!

In contrast, James has done a remarkable job explaining how God does “test” us with trials, trying times and even persecution, so that we can develop perseverance, or as I earlier called it “a willingness to cling to God no matter what” faith (James 1:1-12). In the process, we become “perfect” and “complete”, and consequently lacking nothing good whatsoever!

Then, using the same Greek word as he did for “test”, James begins 1:13 declaring when (not “if”) we are “tempted” from within by our desires, we should be aware of these facts, and not believe the above popular myths. Let’s examine them briefly against what Scripture says.

  • “The Devil made me do it!”
  • “Why is God tempting me so much?”

If I may, let me dispense with this first and foremost: Temptation is because of me, not God! (V. 13)

James helps us to see that obviously we don’t understand the nature of temptation when we say things like, “The Devil made me do it” or “Why is God tempting me so much?”.

As James expressed earlier in 1:3-7, God certainly does and will “test” us for the reasons previously stated. But now, in v. 13ff, James unequivocally proclaims that God does not “tempt” us or seek to “lure” us and “entice” us with evil! To make such a statement is ludicrous for one simple reason: if we as Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, why would God seek to tempt us with evil? As v. 13 literally says, God is “untemptable”! How could he tempt himself, and even more, why would he “lure” and “entice” his children with evil?

If we struggle with temptation, and we all do in one way or another, we need to place the blame somewhere else – not on God!

  • “I can’t control myself! I am what I am.”

So where do my temptations originate? Look in the mirror.

Our temptations come from our own desires that literally seek immediate gratification but in ungodly ways. Ironically, what makes the whole process even more exacting is that we live in a world that incessantly provokes those desires, and incites us to instantaneously fulfill them in a host of unsavory ways.

Now, many people have thought since desires can seem out of control and can bring harm, it’s best to ignore them, or suppress them. In fact, Buddhists believe, generally speaking, that desires must be extinguished and rid from the body because it is the source of all our problems. The mistake with this view is that we were made to desire: to love and be loved, to serve, to hunger, to worship, and a variety of other good desires. Since we were created to desire, and our creation was deemed “very good” (Gen. 1:31), something else must be the problem.

Consequently our challenge is not to ignore or extinguish our desires, but to learn to express them in godly ways, by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Gal. 5:16).

  • “It can’t be wrong because it feels so good!”

Unfortunately, it can be wrong and extremely detrimental to our health – both physically and spiritually. As James states in v. 15: “Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.”

As illogical as it is to blame God for the temptations that come from our own desires, notice the logic of what James says, using the language of reproduction, regarding inappropriately expressed desires: once conceived, they are the “mother” of sin, and the “grandmother” of death!

While it can’t be denied that sin brings momentary pleasure, it must be affirmed that sin will also bring momentous consequences, based on the act committed. This is why it’s so important that a believer lives not based solely on feelings but faith. And faith dictates that one way we attack temptation is not by blaming, but recognizing the role desire plays in temptation, and seeking to express them in godly ways.

Finally, may we never forget that we are not alone as we face temptations because God is always with us, ready to guide and strengthen us. And C. S. Lewis aptly, but also stunningly, summarizes the situation:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

Let’s be who we were created to be: desirous people yearning for our Creator and the wisdom to express our desires in the proper way.

RA

Randy’s Weekly Reads (5/15/15)

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What a week of stimulating and edifying articles! I could have put five more here, but these nuggets of gold will due for now. Read on!

When God Interrupts Your Plans

This article by Christina Fox was the most convicting article I read this week! I love how she reminds us – no, really challenges us – to think of life’s interruptions as “divinely placed opportunities to grow in grace.”

And, she finds a noble ally in author and pastor Paul Tripp:

You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts. (Whiter Than Snow, 21)

The One Sure Mark of Christian Maturity

This gem is from one of my favorite bloggers Tim Challies, and it’s a powerful reminder of what true spiritual maturity is: “This means that spiritual maturity is better displayed in acts than in facts.” Be sure to read all of the article, especially as he quotes Titus 2:14 at the end! Good stuff!

What Does It Mean to Accept Jesus

Sometimes I love an article just because of a great illustration in it. This article by pastor Ray Ortlund does a great job of using a common, ordinary event to explain what accepting Jesus should, and shouldn’t mean. Do you like it?

I hope you are inspired by these, and that you have a blessed weekend!

RA

Randy’s Weekly Reads (5/8/15)

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Before I share some of the great articles and blogs I’ve read this week, I wanted to apologize for not publishing any new content this week. I created this blog to help you with your Quiet Time, and I take that seriously. I’ve been working on a great study – James 1:13ff – but it’s just been incredibly busy this week, and for some reason I’ve been led to continue working on it.

But, I do want to give a sneak preview of what I’ve learned through my research. In James 1:13ff he gives a brief analysis of temptation and sin. Here’s some of what we’ll get into next week:

“Sin always amplifies its benefits and minimizes its cost.” Tim Challies

“If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation.” John Owen

*The problem is not desire itself; the problem is when we seek to fulfill desire in ungodly ways.  (Me)

“If God is ‘untemptable’ as the passage literally proclaims, why am I so ‘temptable’?

I know I’ve enjoyed researching and meditating on that topic. I hope you’ll check it out next week and more importantly, be encouraged and challenged by it. For now, here’s two great reads I enjoyed this past week:

Difficulty Does Not Mean Desertion

This is a powerful and timely article by pastor and blogger Erik Raymond. I’m still wrestling with all the truth in this excerpt:  “It may be spiritual persecution, social pinching, physical suffering, or just the chaffing of life in a fallen world. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that our present realities are neither a surprise to God nor a subversion to his plan. What’s more, we can be assured that since he is our Father, by means of gospel adoption, then every station of life is a station ordained by love. Difficulty does not mean desertion. If there was a better situation to be in at the present moment then divine love and wisdom would have put you there.”

The Real Reason We Fail To Pray

This gem is my author Michael Kelley! I’m not sure I agree it’s the “real reason”, but he has a great point! I won’t spoil it for you – read it and see what he says is the real reason. Do you agree?

Have a great weekend!

RA

Randy’s Weekly Reads (5/1/15)

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Time marches on! I can’t believe it’s already the end of the week, and also now it’s May! I only have two articles for you this week, but they’re good ones – enjoy!

Why God’s Will Isn’t Always Clear

I loved this article by Jon Bloom and particularly this insightful quote: “But one reason why God usually doesn’t give us specific guidance in our sometimes-perplexing decisions is that he places a higher priority on our being transformed than our being informed in order that we will be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).”

How Captain America is Practically Biblical

Anyone who knows me quickly discovers I’m not a big comic book movie fan (did we really need five Spiderman movies since 2002?), but my family – that’s another story. Consequently, it has been a challenging week in my house since all the talk has been about the new sequel Avengers: The Age of Ultron. Well, believe it or not, I found a great article by Paul Asay about the biblical lessons that can be gleaned from at least one of the heroes. Enjoy, but I still not seeing the movie anytime soon 🙂 !

Have a great weekend!

RA