A trial is something that happens to you, while temptation is something that happens within you.
Thank you Graham and Marsha, and thank you for your worship this morning. It certainly a blessing to be able to praise the Lord together.
We are in a series of sermons that I’ve been able to get through two! We’re in the book of James, so let me invite you to turn in your copy of God’s Word to James, chapter one. We’ll be starting in verse 13 this morning. James, chapter one, verse 13.
Today is the first Sunday in September, and it’s a special day. A year ago was my first Sunday as your pastor, so that’s something I’m very excited about.
We’ve been through Nehemiah, and we saw how God took ordinary people and did extraordinary things. As we look in James now, we’re seeing how God wants to use all of his children to impact the world with their faith. Graham had mentioned about getting your cell phone to look at the lyrics to the songs. Chad has been working very diligently and very hard, and I’m going to try to explain this best I know how.
You can access the sermon notes on your phone. If you have the You Version Bible app, it has to be the You Version Bible app, you can open that up. My phone has a little section in the bottom right corner that says “more.” If you hit on that button “more” and then go to “events,” you will see a pop up on the events that says “China Grove First Baptist Church.” You can click on that, and it will bring up today’s sermon notes for you. That’s the best I can explain it. If you can’t find it, there’s a brief version of the notes in your bulletin and then I’ll try to help you after the service to be able to pick those notes up in the future.
James is kind of making a transition from the topic of trials to the topic of temptation. Now, there was a man, I won’t call his name, but he was trying to diet. He wanted to lose some weight and be fit, and so he was watching what he ate. This man was driving home after a long day at a place, and it’s late at night, not too late, but it’s later, and he sees coming up a donut shop and a coffee house. Now again, he’s really been struggling with his diet, and he prays that if there’s a parking spot that is open in the front of the store, then he’ll stop and get him a donut and a cup of coffee. So, the man pulls into the parking lot, and sure enough, he finds a spot right at the front door…after driving around the block 7 times.
Now, that story came out of Reader’s Digest, but I can honestly tell you I’ve experienced something similar, so y’all thought it was about me to begin with! No, that was Reader’s Digest! My experience was when I was in seminary, I was spending a lot of money going to a nutritionist, and I had lost a lot of weight, but seminary is just one of those things, and the way I had set up, it was it was one day a week. I was there from roughly 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM, so that’s a 3-hour drive home after my last class which was at 9:30. You get a little tired. You get a little energy deprived, and there was always the same service station that I would stop at on the way home, ’cause it was the only one open at 11:00 o’clock when I was going through that particular town.
And it seemed like every time I walked into that service station, I found myself always walking down the candy aisle. Now I was just heading to the restrooms, but as I walk, it was like every week there was always a Snickers that caught my eye, but I resisted as I walked by. And I said I’m just going to grab me a bottle of water and be on my way.
So, I was getting ready to leave, and I walked back down the candy aisle because believe it or not it was a crowded store at 11:00 o’clock at night, and that’s the only aisle you can walk down. And somehow a Snickers ended up in my hand. Or KitKat or whatever the snack of choice! And often times when I got in my car, I would realize I had a Cheerwine, too. I’m trying to diet. But I was tempted, and I gave into the temptation.
There was a guy named Robert Orban who said this. “Most people want to be delivered from temptation. They want to be gotten rid of it. But they like to keep in touch with it.” Anybody relate to that?
We can pray that prayer, “Father deliver us from temptation,” but we’d like to keep in touch with it. Everybody experiences temptation. You go on a diet, and I promise the day you decide to go on a diet, somebody is going to put a pound cake right in front of your face.
OK, and that’s kind of a silly illustration, but the temptation that James is talking about is very spiritual in nature. And Christians, we are not free from experiencing temptation. In fact, I will tell you the day you decide to follow Jesus, you will experience the greatest temptations you’ve ever experienced. And, so we have to ask this question this morning: where does the temptation come from? Whose fault is it really? Why do we struggle with temptations so much in this life? Everybody does!
And you see, James makes this transition where a trial, something that he’s been talking about, you know the trials of life, are something that is happening to us, right? The trials we experience usually come from outside forces or outside circumstances, and they happen to us. And what we saw in that first week was the trials have a purpose. Their purpose is to develop us. Trials are not meant to destroy us. God uses our trials to develop us into the people that he has created us to be.
But temptation is very different from those trials. Temptation, in its definition, is an inner enticement to sin. It is an inside something within us that is going to lead us astray and it’s very deceptive because temptation, whereas trials develop us, temptation is designed to destroy us if we give in to it. And so James understands that these members of his church, they’re away from the church, they’re starting little house churches, and they’re experiencing temptations because everybody experiences temptations. So here’s what he says in verse 13.
James 1:13-18 – 13 No one undergoing a trial (temptation) should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 By His own choice, He gave us birth by the Word of Truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
Let’s pray – Father as we open Your Word, may it speak to our hearts and penetrate deep into our souls. Father, I pray that the Holy Spirit would work in such a way that we would come to understand the truths that You have set before us. And that we would be committed to being Your disciples to live this truth out each and every day. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
As we look at the passage, there are three truths I want to point out to you. The first one is your temptation is not God’s fault.
- Temptation does not come from God.
God does not tempt you to do anything. See, God in himself as we sang as perfect. He is holy. He is unable to lead us astray. James makes it very clear that God himself is not evil, and God’s desire as you read the Bible is that all men and all women, that His children, would be holy like He is holy. So, as a good Father, He wouldn’t do anything to cause us to stumble. He wouldn’t do anything to lead us astray. In fact, James goes on to say that every good and perfect gift comes from God. So, God’s not putting these stumbling blocks in our path. God is putting good and perfect gifts in front of us.
You know, I think back, and there’s echoes of Genesis 1:1, where you see that God created everything. And as you read the Creation account, what do you see? As God is creating, you see those phrases: It’s good; it’s good. It’s good; it’s good. Then you get to humanity, and He says, “It’s very good.” You see God created everything to be perfect to be holy. He created everything to be good and very good. And He told Adam, and He told Eve, and He said, look, you’ve got access to the best fruits and the best vegetables and the best waters and you’ve got access to everything. It’s yours. I’ve provided for you everything that you could ever need. God desires obedience to come from our hearts.
And so, God looked at Adam and Eve, and He says, you’ve got everything you could ever need, that you could ever want, but you see that tree that one tree right there? Don’t eat from that tree or you’ll die. Don’t take a bite of that tree. You don’t need it. You’ve got everything here. But if you eat from that tree, the consequences will be disastrous.
And here they are. One day, Adam and Eve, you know if you read it, they’re both pretty much together. And they experience temptation. The serpent shows up, and the serpent says, hey, that’s the good stuff. And you can read how they, back in Genesis, how the serpent called into question God’s goodness. He called into question God’s truthfulness, but he, at the heart of what he’s doing, is he’s tapping into a desire for humanity to be like God. He’s tapping into the fact that they may be able, or they may have been deceived by the serpent who says God is withholding from you the best part of creation. But that’s not true. God had already given them everything. But they were deceived, and they gave in to the temptation, and they ate that fruit.
And then God confronts them. And what happens? They shifted blame to somebody else, didn’t they? Eve says it’s the Serpent’s fault. Adams says it’s the woman’s fault. But then Adam goes on to say it’s the woman fault that You gave me. At the heart of what Adam is doing is he is blaming God for the sin that he just committed.
And James makes it very clear it was not God’s fault. God did not tempt them to sin. So, you may say where did that temptation come from? You could be like Eve and said the devil made me do it. Anybody ever done that? The devil made me do it.
You could have been like the little boy, I won’t use names, the little boy who whose father put a pack of Oreos on the kitchen counter with a glass of milk. And the father had to walk away and do something. The father comes back and sees the cookies are gone with the little boy holding a cookie in his hand with it halfway in his mouth. And when confronted, the little boy says, “Dad, you shouldn’t left them here. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. So, it’s not the dad’s fault. It wasn’t my fault. They’re my cookies. He shouldn’t have ate them. I’m not calling any names.
That’s kind of what has happened. It’s not God’s fault. It’s not even Satan’s fault. You might expect James to say, well, Satan is the one doing the tempting. But no, he does something even more powerful. James, you can almost see him through these words, peering into the hearts of his readers, peering into our hearts today. He says that it’s your fault.
The second truth I want you to see is temptation comes from within our hearts.
- Temptation comes from within us.
James says in verse 14 that each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Within us, within each of us, are evil desires, and you may be sitting there thinking well, I’m not an evil person. Well, I know all of you, and I don’t think you’re evil either. And he doesn’t say that every desire you have is evil, but what he’s getting at is every desire you have has the potential to be evil. Every desire you have has a potential to lead you astray and to drag you away. You see it’s not God’s fault. It’s not Satan’s fault. It’s my fault.
God’s nature is perfect and holy. My nature is sinful. Your nature is sinful. Listen, I’m not a sinner because I sin. I sin because I’m a sinner. I sin because at the very nature, because what Adam and Eve did, because that relationship between humanity and God is broken from the very nature. From the moment of birth, I am naturally sinful. I naturally rebel against God and His Word, and you know this if you have children, because it’s uncanny how a little child can tell a lie without ever being taught how to do it. Right?
We are naturally evil in our hearts. Paul says it like this in Romans 7:18 – “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.” It’s not God’s fault, it’s my fault.
- The process of sin.
So, James lays out the process of sin in this passage. How does sin manifest itself? How do we get to a point where we are committing sin and rebellion against God?
The language in this verse about being dragged away or lured away and enticed is that of fishing. Now, I’m not a fisherman, but Graham likes to fish. But I know this – if I take a pole with an empty hook and throw it in the water, I’m not going to catch a fish. Mr. Fish is going to swim around that empty hook all day long and be like, “That looks dangerous. I’m not going to bite that. It could hurt me.” But yet you take a nice fat juicy worm, and you wrap it around that hook where the fish can’t see the hook. I don’t even know if fish can see. I’m kind of making this up as I go about fish, but you take that worm and you wrap it around the hook and you throw it in the water. Mr. Fish comes swimming up and swimming along. He’s like, “Ooh, there’s a random worm just floating in the water!” Which, by the way, should be the first question. Why is there a worm just floating in the water in like midair? But the fish has a desire to eat that big juicy worm. And so he might swim around a little bit and maybe (I don’t know if they have brains or not), but they might question whether or not this is a good idea. Maybe little baby fish is out there and he’s like my mama told me to stay away from these floating worms that just randomly float for no reason. But then his desire causes him to latch on to that worm. And then guys like Graham and other fishermen, they yank that rod back and drag the fish away. And usually good eating right?
That is what our desires do, our desires cause us to face temptation. Because inside of every one of us are these desires that Satan or the world can use to draw us away?
And oftentimes, every time, those hooks that we face, they’re always disguised. Oh, that’s going to make you feel good. You should do it. Oh, it’s not going to hurt to do it just one time. Just do it. You know it’s a desire not to get in trouble. It’s a desire to avoid the consequences of a decision that leads some to tell a lie. It’s a desire to be viewed better than we really are to make up stories about ourselves that are untrue. It is a desire for pleasure that drives people to turn to pornography, sexual sins like premarital sex or homosexuality. It is a desire to be loved that drives the spouses into the arms of another. It is a desire to be rich that drives employees and employers to be dishonest. It is the desire to have what we do not have that drives us to steal. It’s a, I’ll speak to myself, it’s a desire to have food that drives us to gluttony. It’s a desire to feel pleasure or a desire to be free from pain that leads to drug addiction and alcoholism. A desire to pay back and get revenge leads to hate, slander, anger. And we could go on and list on a number of sins. These are just a few, but they’re not exhaustive.
And in everybody’s heart is a desire. And watch this, when desire meets opportunity, then we’ve got something. We’ve got a problem. When your desire meets the opportunity to sin, we got a problem. And that’s when the next step of sin happens.
You see, the temptation and the desire in and of itself is not sinful. Please don’t misunderstand that. Christians, we are all tempted. We all are. That’s not the sin. The sin is when we act on our desires. The sin is when the opportunity comes up and we say, “Oooh, I really want that. I’m going to do it and you do it.” That’s the sin – when it disobeys God law. That’s when you clamp down on that hook. And James is very clear that the next step is death.
Death because you clamped down on a hook. Listen, Paul says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul says that the wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve did not die physically, but they died spiritually. Sin leads to death, but it starts with our desires. Our desires, when we give into them, lead to our disobedience or to sin, and that leads to death – spiritually.
Listen, we don’t talk about it much. Hell is a very real place. And real people who we may have known or known of have gone there apart from Jesus Christ as their Savior. Because they experienced spiritual death and were never reborn because of their faith. The idea of spiritual death and hell should terrify people. Because James gives a very, it’s a very vivid picture that he’s painting, that your sin, when it’s fully conceived, when it’s fully grown, leads to death.
Now that’s really bad news. And if the story ended there, we might be in trouble. But look at verse 16. James transitions away from the bad news, and he goes to the good news. “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” Don’t be deceived by that momentary pleasure. Don’t be deceived by that dangling worm on a hook. Satan would have us to believe – maybe if you’re not a Christian and you’re listening, Satan would have you believe that God cannot forgive what you have done and that your sin is too great. Satan would have you believe that God does not love you because of your sin.
But the Bible says that no greater love has anyone than this, than to lay down his life for his friends. And that’s exactly what Jesus did on that cross. He laid down His life. Because He loved you that much, because God does not desire you to stay trapped in your sin. Satan would have you believe that there’s no way back from the dark path that you are leading, that there’s no one to open the door to set you free. In fact, there’s a hymn that goes like this. There is a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. There’s a door that is open and you may go in. At Calvary’s Cross is where you begin when you come as a sinner to Jesus.
But Christian, listen to me. Those of you who have been following Jesus, the same deception happens. Satan will say, well, you’re a Christian. You can do whatever you want. Satan leads you Christian to believe that, what’s just one time? It’s not going to hurt anything. Satan would also have you believe that there’s no way out of your temptation. This is just who you are. But Paul says in
1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it.”
Listen, when you are tempted, God always provides you a way out. Maybe it’s that text message as you’re with your girlfriend or your boyfriend and you’re going just a little too far. Maybe it’s your phone that dings with the notifications, like oh, I better stop. Maybe Aunt Susie calls you on the phone. Maybe it’s that Bible verse that you’ve been remembering and memorizing over and over and over again that pops into your head. It’s like, man, I gotta stop this. God always gives you a way out. So don’t be deceived.
But James goes on to finish it up. In verse 18 – “By his own choice.” I love this language. Look at this! “By his own choice, He gave us birth by the Word of Truth.” Listen, sin gives desire, gives birth to disobedience to sin. Sin, fully conceived, leads to death. But God gives life. He gives new life through the Word of Truth.
John’s Gospel says,
John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God.”
And that is clearly talking about Jesus. Through the Word of Truth, through the Bible, we learn how Jesus died for our sins, we learn that we can confess our sins and put our faith in Him and be saved. It is through the Word of Truth that gives birth to life, to new life.
And I don’t want you to miss that today. Because if you want your faith to impact the world, you gotta have faith. You got to start with Jesus.
Jennifer’s grandpa passed away a few months ago. But one thing about him that I always was kind of amazed with was that he had pecan trees. And with pecan trees, comes a problem – squirrels. Lots of squirrels. And he didn’t like those squirrels. So, I remember one day when we were over at his house, and I was sitting at a chair by the window and I saw this cage. You know, those kind of humane squirrel traps. And he had one pecan right there at the door. He had two just inside the cage, and he had three at the very back of the cage.
I sit there for a little bit, and I watched a squirrel circle that cage. It’s almost as if the squirrel knew that there was danger. And I watched him take that first pecan. Then he came back. I saw him just inch his way in just a little bit, and he grabbed those two. And about 30 minutes later, he’s back – very, very hesitant. But I watched him walk all the way in to get those last three, and then I watched him step on that little lever, and I watched the door shut behind him. He went nuts. He was trapped!
That’s what our desires, and that’s what sin is. It’s a trap.
But Jennifer’s grandfather was a very humane individual, so he would take these traps and he would drive them really far away so they wouldn’t come back. Although I think they found their way back. And he would always open the gate. See, that squirrel can’t get out unless somebody else opens the gate. When you and I are trapped in our sin and our sorrows and our guilt and our shame, there ain’t no way to get out unless somebody opens the gate for us.
And that’s exactly what Jesus did. If you are trapped today with this constant giving in to your temptation with an active sinful lifestyle, Jesus says I’m ready to open the door and I’m ready for you to be set free. Jesus says all you got to do is respond to Me in faith.
Is today the day that you need to say yes to Jesus? That you need to confess your sins? The Bible says if you will believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that he is Lord, you will be saved.
You need to turn away from that dark path and walk back into the light. Do you need to let him open the gate to set you free? That’s the decision that you need to make today.
If you can hear my voice, whether you’re out there or in the community, listen! You hear it for a reason. You hear it because Jesus wants to speak to your heart, into your life. Because today’s the day He’s calling you to respond to the invitation to be saved.
And maybe you’ve made that decision. You’re ready to respond, just like Gabe did to the waters of baptism. And you just come on forward and say I’m ready to take the next steps. We won’t do it today, but we’ll plan one for you.
What is the Spirit of God laying on your heart today? Would you move and respond to His message?
Father, I’m so grateful that Your Son sets us free from our sin. I’m so grateful that You have made a way to restore the broken relationship that happened years ago with Adam and Eve. And I’m thankful that we see from Genesis to Revelation, You have been actively working in and through history to redeem Your people. Father, I pray that You would help us to respond to that message today. Father, draw those who are lost into Your presence. Open the gates so that they would be set free from their sin and that they would spend eternity with You. Not in hell, but in heaven. We ask this in Jesus name – Amen and Amen.