What’s really behind temptation? Where does it all begin? Answering this question correctly, significantly helps your ability to fight against temptation!
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
Before I get into our passage this morning…let me take a quick aside to talk about something that is SO AMAZING…and yet, often we can be nervous about stepping forward in it.
And that’s baptism.
Our our annual summer baptism is coming up Sunday night, July 17th
(Put up Baptism Slide)
If you’re a believer in Jesus, and you’ve never been baptized as a believer, get baptized.
It’s an amazing experience. So powerful.
The Bible speaks A LOT about baptism, and tells us it’s something we’re to do after we make a decision to believe in Jesus.
It’s an outward symbol of Jesus giving us new life and washing away our sins
It’s something that Jesus even commands us to do as his followers…it’s that important.
So…if you’ve been waiting to do it…let go of any excuses and sign-up
It’s not about being ready.
Baptism is a symbol of us not being good enough, and he died for anyway.
It’s not about the conditions being just right..
It’s a matter of obedience.
In the Bible…people often even got baptized the same day they believed.
And it’s not (and this a tough on in our Midwestern culture), it’s not even about “if you were baptized already as a baby”
I was myself…but I was baptized as an adult (when I became a believer) because the Bible never mentions baptizing babies.
Every time the Bible describes baptism, it describes someone who gets baptized after their faith becomes their own…after they believe.
It’s so awesome to do it.
If you’ve been putting it off, put it off no longer.
All right, let’s get into today’s message.
When I say temptation, what do you think of?
Most of us thinking of someone or something tempting us to do something bad.
Like if I was holding a double-fudge sundae in front of you while you were on day 3 of your 30-day beach body diet.
Temptation comes in many ways:
It may be the temptation to take a job that’s ultimately not right for you or your family
Or to tell a small lie in order to save yourself some money.
Or maybe someone is egging you on to participate in gossip
However it looks, we tend to almost always think of temptation as someone or something is tempting us to do something bad.
Wherever it comes from…one thing is for sure: Most of us tend to fight a losing battle against it.
This morning as we continue in our “More Than Words” series on the book of James, we’re going to see some practical, and yet theological advice, for how we ought to deal with temptation.
If you were here last week, James opened his letter by talking about how trials can make us stronger.
Not by making us tougher, but by making us wiser…wiser to the fact that we NEED God.
And this morning, James is going to transition to the topic of temptation.
At first it may seem like an unrelated transition, but one of the places we are most susceptible to temptation is in our trials.
When you’re going through a rough patch you might be tempted to:
Doubt God’s goodness
Rationalize a sinful approach because it’ll get you where you need to go (a means to an end)
Or tempted to medicate your emotional pain through sin
Every trial seems to bring temptation with it.
Trials have a way of bringing our weaknesses to the surface:
So let’s look at what James says about temptation:
(Page 977) – NIV
While you’re finding it, let me start with a warning.
James is one of the most challenging and intense books of the Bible.
Weekly, you should bring your seat belt in to church
Be prepared and open yourself to the Word of God challenging your life…
I hope that’s why you come every week…but be extra ready in this series.
(James 1:13-18) – NIV
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 person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire 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 and sisters. 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.
So even though God may be trying to mature you through a trial, James wants to make it clear that God is never going to tempt you to fall into evil.
That’s not how He works.
Very clearly in verse 13 we see, “God does not tempt anyone”
SIN STARTS IN US
So then where does temptation come from?
We need to actually dissect this a little bit and see where temptation really comes from…
Otherwise, we’re just going to be treating the wrong illness.
You can’t fix an illness if you don’t know where the illness starts.
Most of us don’t even know where to begin.
In fact, in a big 2011 study, they asked people: “WHY do you give into temptation?”
And while some said, “to escape” or “to feel less pain” or “make others happy”…
A whopping 50% of people said, “I’m not really sure!”
Which is a problem! J
You can’t fight against something if you have NO IDEA why you’re losing J
And the first thing we need “to be sure” about is where the illness gets started.
Most people (especially Christians) today would probably say the real problem with sin and temptation is: “It’s the world! This is a sinful, wicked world…there are temptations everywhere…to fall into bitterness, greed, envy, gluttony, lust, you name it!”
But that’s not where James says the real problem lies
It’s not where he puts his focus.
He doesn’t say, “Temptation is everywhere! Run away!”
Look at verse 14 again. It’s so important!
(James 1:14) – NIV
14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed
If you haven’t spent much time in a Bible-believing church, that might feel weird…or even surprising to you.
One of our culture’s current obsessions (especially in TV & movies) is declaring that humankind is basically good…not naturally sinful.
Personally, I’m always a bit perplexed as to how we’ve been able to continually craft this narrative about ourselves when the news cycle CLEARLY says something to the contrary…
The Bible teaches what you’ve probably witnessed with your eyes (not what you’ve wanted to believe in your heart)
That humans are naturally sinful.
Psalm 51, for example, says we are born sinful at birth.
This is what life teaches.
What if a child was completely abandoned? Never taught anything?
What’s going to happen? Will that child be our next Billy Graham? Mother Theresa? Our next great president?
You know the answer to this. It’s no.
Why? Because what reigns in us…if we’re left untouched…(in other words…if we’re left to our natural state without influence)…is sin…not goodness.
You don’t have to teach a child to do wrong, you do have to teach it to do right.
Many of you have toddlers at home.
How many of you personally introduced them to stealing, pushing, biting, or ridiculous temper tantrums?
Like, were they thinking, “I always see my mom throwing things off the shelves at Target when she’s mad…maybe I’ll do that?”
Kids sin naturally all on their own.
Non-Christians think the main problem with temptation is of course how other people have led us to make bad choices.
And many Christians would agree with that and also add ‘spiritual evil” as a source of temptation
That’s in reference to the fact that the Bible says that the devil and his forces are also a part of tempting you to sin.
And yet, James takes a curious approach to this.
You read that he’s talking about temptation and how God’s not responsible for it, and you kind of expect him to start talking about how Satan is the one responsible for it!
And yet that’s not what he does.
He talks about the devil…later in his letter…
And it’s not that Satan isn’t related to temptation
But what James is saying is that YOU are always responsible for your sin…no one else.
It starts in you…in me.
This may seem kind of heady…or theological…or even more intense than normal…but this really matters when you work it all out in your life.
What James is saying is that our real problem with temptation is that we love sin. A lot.
The problem isn’t that sin itself is so enticing!
It’s that we find it to be so enticing in the first place!
If I drink way too much mountain dew (which may or may not be true in real life)
The problem is not that mountain dew is just too delicious…
The problem is I’m way too obsessed with drinking mountain dew
You can see this played out in America right now.
Our culture is trying to figure out what to do with the endless string of mass murders, terrorist attacks, the uptick of sexual assault on college campuses, racism that just won’t go away…and on and on.
And the problem will never be solved in fixing some external realities, because the real problem (as the Bible says) is within us.
And our desire towards sin!
See, if we were all “naturally good people” like our cultural-at-large believes, then sin wouldn’t be so much of a problem!
It would be easy to thwart the advances of temptation.
AT our core, we would be GOOD!
But we’re not.
FIXING THE WRONG THING
But l like I said before, if you’re going to treat an illness, you have to know where it starts and where the real problem lies.
You’re not going to fix strep throat by putting some drops in your ears.
And if we’re going to do this well…and follow God’s path…we’ve got to start with a tough look inward.
But most of us just prefer to look outward.
For example: I’ve met with a lot of guys over the years who’ve said, “David, I have a major problem with lust”
And I might say, “Well, why do you think this is happening?”
And I can’t tell you how many guys have said, “I don’t know. Women are just so beautiful…I can’t help it!”
“So women are the problem then?”
And in all sorts of ways…we dodge our real problem with temptation and sin by looking outward instead of doing the hard work of looking inward
“Our problem is that…the opposite sex is too good looking.
Or, our parents are our problem…or our family of origin really screwed up our life…and that’s why it’s so easy for us to give into temptation and sin.
Or, maybe it’s even God’s fault…He has given you too many trials, so what does he expect?
Or, maybe the real problem is your friends. The people you hang out with. They’re the real reason you’re struggling so much lately.
Except…what’s the commonality in all of those examples?
Who is in all of them?
Our sinful self!
But if you think everyONE else or everyTHING else is the problem…how are you ever going to see change in your life?
Some, like we talked about a few weeks ago, just get stuck in the blame game and don’t do anything.
But a lot of us try and deal with temptation by running.
“The opposite sex is my problem with lust…I’ll just wear sunglasses and hide in my basement
My friends I’m hanging out with are my problem…I’ll just stop hanging out with them…
And maybe you’re thinking, “But David, that’s good advice! I heard 15 sermons on exactly those two things in Youth Group as a kid!”
And it’s not good advice… it’s just decent advice that happens to be missing the most important piece of the puzzle!
Because while the sin around you is certainly part of the equation…
Any reasonable recovering drug addict stops going to parties where there are drugs!...
If looking at everyone’s perfect family on Instagram makes you really angry and bitter every day, quit Instagram.
But see the real problem, the source of the sin (addiction, anger, jealousy), is something you can’t run away from…it’s you.
So for example…if you have a problem with being envious with everyone else’s house & lifestyle, how are you going to fix that? (“if everyone else lived in dire poverty…than I’d be happy”) the problem is in us.
You can’t run away from yourself.
Throughout history there have been Christian monks who have lived off by themselves for long periods of time to get closer to God.
And many of them did.
But guess what they discovered? They still sinned!
Instead of lusting at women they saw, they thought of them and lusted.
Instead of getting mad at people in person, they thought of old conflicts and many became even more resentful.
And this is why James emphasis on temptation isn’t on the externals.
He says we’re dragged away by our own evil desires…
So if all you do is run from external problems (that’s not terrible), but you’ll be trying to fix your lungs when the real problem is your heart.
This passage is really oughta change how you look at temptation.
I know it does for me.
I think my concept of temptation is still sprinkled with worldly thinking
In our normal description of temptation to others, we tend to play the victim.
We say, “I was doing such a good job with not getting angry at my kids, but then it was like something came over me, and I just gave into anger.”
And we paint these stories…like we are the hero…and sin has flown in from these outside sources and circumstances…tempted us and vanquished all of our goodness!”
But here’s the Biblical reality of temptation:
We’re like fish, and sin is like the hook.
When you bite into it, it’ll take you to places you never wanted to go.
This is what James says in verse 15: And after desire is conceived it gives birth to sin, and sin gives birth to death.
But here’s the thing I’m not sure a lot of us realize…
We’re like fish, sin is like the hook, but most of the time, we’re the ones putting the chocolate on the hook…convincing ourselves its worth biting.
That’s what James says:
We are dragged away and enticed…(here’s the shocker)…by ourselves!
You only sin for one reason: You want to.
This is good theology too.
The Bible says you HAVE free will.
No one, not even the devil, can force you to sin…you have to choose it.
You can be tempted, which isn’t in itself a sin…but if you go forward, it was of your own free will.
If your manager at work tells you that you have to lie to his boss when he asks how you all are doing in your department
And you do it, but later you tell your spouse, “I didn’t want to do it, but I had to!”
That’s not actually true.
You did want to do it!
You do what you want to do.
You just wanted to keep your job more than you wanted to tell the truth.
And so James is saying that temptation works like this:
We are naturally sinful people…it’s how God made us…
Which means we’re inclined towards sin. It’s what’s most natural for us. It’s easier to sin than it is to do good.
And yet, God puts the law (how to live) on the hearts of humankind…we have a conscience
And he does this because he wants you to know that you have indeed sinned, and thus need a savior!
And because we have a conscience…we do sometimes hesitate before we bite into the hook.
But James says our desires entice us.
And so while we hesitate to bite into the hook, our inner desires keep chanting, “Bite, bite, bite, bite, bite!”
And so the only way we can get ourselves to do it is to cover the hook in chocolate.
And like a fish falling for the trick of a brightly covered lure, we bite into our chocolate-covered hook, and let it take us away.
But we cover it with chocolate…
And many the times the devil just adds some sprinkles.
But our desires cover it with chocolate
People don’t say, “Wayne, I’ll take the adulterous affair that will ruin my life behind door number 2 please!”
People say, “I just need someone who will appreciate me and actually notice me”
We put the chocolate on the hook.
We don’t say, “You know what…what I want is to keeping working 75 hours a week until my kid one day sends me a text saying, “How come you’re never there for me?”
We say, “If I advance in my career, then my family will be more secure and happier and live a life I never got to live growing up!”
We put the chocolate on the hook.
Because it’s the only way our inward sinful desires can get what they really want…which is for us to bite into sin.
CHASE THE GREATER GIFT
So what in the world are we going to do about…ourselves?!?
And the fact that we just can’t stop enticing our own selves into further sin and pain?
This is why we need Jesus…desperately.
By the way, this is why so many people don’t think they need Jesus.
Because if “I’m naturally good,” then it must be everyone else’s fault that I’m struggling..
(Maybe they need Jesus!) J
But when I know I’m sinful, and I know WHY I really sin, I know the only person that can get me out…is Him.
If I keep blaming God, the devil, or others…nothings really going to change
If I only try and change my environment to run from sin…(which you should do!)
You will see change…but only short-term change.
This happens every day in America.
People walk into 28-day treatment facilities for addictions.
Their environment changes…they’ve run away from temptation.
But if they don’t let God change their heart and surrender to Him…guess what?
When they walk back out to the real world…their sinful hearts lead them astray…almost immediately
And so if the problem is within us, our main fix can’t be outside of us, the main fix has to be something that happens inside of us!
This is what James is saying in verses 16 & 17
“Don’t be deceived (which is easy), every good and perfect gift comes from above”
Real good things, come not from us, but from above.
And the greatest thing is this (verse 18): He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth!
We’ve been born again, forgiven, given everlasting life through faith in jesus!
God is in us now!
And THAT is what can change your life!
When you read the letters of the Paul in the New Testament…this is what Paul’s constantly getting at.
When you believe in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit lives in you…
He comes to set you free…and you are no longer a slave to your sinful nature.
Is it still there? Are you still inclined to sin? To want to put chocolate all over the hook?
But NOW…you have God…someone who is changing you and can actually help you!
And see, it’s this relationship with an all-powerful God that can allow you to start defeating temptation…not just you striving hard to avoid bad things.
That’s just a foolish running from yourself.
Like a dog trying to run away from its tail
But God can help you change yourself!
And give you power outside of yourself!
There was a pastor who used to say, “The only way to break hold of a beautiful object (a temptation) on the soul is to show your soul a more beautiful object.
And that’s God.
The Bible paints this picture of God who gives us good food…
Psalm 34 tells us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good”
This is one of the best paths against fighting temptation.
When you keep biting into the Lord’s fruit and realizing that there’s no rusty metal hook inside…you’ll want more of that.
And yet, you’ll find that no matter what happens…even when we let our sinful nature flourish again…he still loves us
Even when we keep messing up.
Even when we keep telling him every morning that we love Him and we’re going to eat his food today…and yet by lunch time we’re lathering fudge on another hook…
He loves us.
And he says…come back…I forgive you…walk with me again.
I sent my son to die on the cross for you…for this…
So follow him:
He loves you and he has the power to change you and help you as you face your real life temptations
So when you feel yourself swimming towards another hook that you already covered with chocolate…remember that God…unlike us…can have power over sin.
He can help us…give us strength.
Call out to him.
And this week when you’re feeling tempted, realize where the illness begins.
And trust not in yourself…but in Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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