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Battling Temptation

The book of James is a remarkable blueprint for building a beautiful, Christ-honoring life in every way. Last week, we learned how to triumph over the trials of life by knowing that, even in our pain and suffering, God is at work in us so He can ultimately work through us. He’s always testing us to mature us, to make us more and better equipped for His service. God always tests us to bring out the best in us!

From the trials we face in life, James shifts to the temptations we fight in life. The truth is Satan always tempts us to bring out the worst in us. We all know something about temptation and sin.

What is a temptation?  We tend to think of a temptation as an allure to do something wrong, unwise or bad. And it is, but more accurately, a temptation is always an opportunity to do or accomplish a good thing in a bad way. For example, eating is a good thing; but eating too much is gluttony, which is a bad thing. Driving is a good thing; but speeding or driving recklessly is a bad thing. Having sex is a good thing, a gift from God to be shared in marriage between a man and woman; but having sex outside of marriage in a way God never intended is a bad thing. You get the picture. We battle temptation in lots of ways every day. Temptation is not just a daily battle, it’s a lifelong war!  

In James 1:13-18, we’re given some powerful weapons to equip us in our battle with temptation.

1) Understand how sin develops in your life.  (James 1:13)

God will test you; but He will never tempt you. So don’t blame Him. The truth is, we can turn testing into temptation when we take a good thing and twist it in a bad way, as I mentioned above. That’s on us, never God. James teaches us that sin is bigger than just a single act; sin is a process. He explains that temptation and sin really have four stages of development in our lives.

Four Stages of Temptation and Sin

Stage 1 - Desire (James 1:14)

It’s our own evil desire that leads to sin. Not every desire we have is sinful, until we permit that desire to take that wrong turn. For example, hunger is not a sin. If it were we’d all be in trouble! We need the desire for food and water or we would die of starvation and dehydration. The problem starts for us when we take normal desires and twist them in ways that God never intended.  

Stage 2 - Deception (James 1:14)

James uses two vivid hunting and fishing illustrations to help us get a clear picture of how deception works. The phrase dragged away is a hunting term that means to bait a trap. The word entice is a Greek word for baiting a hook. Temptation always uses a bait that appeals to our natural desires. The bait looks great until we take it; then we wish we hadn’t. We suffer for it. There are plenty of examples in the Bible for this, including the story of David and Bathsheba. (Ref. 2 Samuel 11)

Stage 3 - Disobedience (James 1:15)

Now it’s time to make a decision: enter the trap, take the bait, or not? James moves from his hunting and fishing illustration to an illustration of the birth of a baby, in this case, sin. Think about how a baby makes decisions. A baby acts on feelings, not much thought. If a baby is hungry, he/she must eat at that moment or they’ll get hangry, and fast! Children act impulsively; their decisions are based on feelings.  

Honoring Jesus with your life involves multiple decisions daily. Those decisions can be based on God’s will or on your will, thoughtful considerations or emotional feelings. Feelings can lead us down the wrong road in life. Mature, God-honoring people resist the urge to act on feelings. They allow the Holy Spirit to guide them, and the Word of God to inform and instruct them. They pursue God’s will, not their own sinful will. (Ref. Philippians 2:13)

The worst part of temptation is when that baby is full grown sin; the consequence is ultimately spiritual death. 

Stage 4 - Death (James 1:15)

Disobedience does not lead to life; it always leads to spiritual death and separation from God. If that sin is not reconciled in your life-time, then that separation is eternal. Thank God for the salvation that He offers us in His Son Jesus Christ! (Ref. Colossians 1:22). All of us must make the personal decision to accept Christ as Savior and Lord to be reconciled to God. If you have not yet done that, you can today!  

James makes clear that sin is a process in our lives. It begins with a natural desire, then temptation takes that desire and begins to twist it in a way that God never intended. This sets up the deception, the allure. The snare is set, the hook is baited. That leads to a decision; and when the decision is to disobey, we will face consequences - spiritual death. Without Jesus, eternal separation from God. All four of these stages were perfectly illustrated with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.

When battling temptation, take your eyes off the bait and look ahead to the real and devastating consequences of sin. When you understand how sin develops in your life, you have a powerful weapon against temptation! For much more, including two more effective weapons in your battle against temptation, click here to listen to:  Blueprints - Part 3 - Battling Temptation.


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