The Book of James

Lesson 2 - "Turning Down Temptation"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 1:13-18, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”


-Introduction:

In the Christian life we have two major difficulties: trials and temptations. Both always present us with choices. God doesn't cause our trials or temptations, but He does allow them so we may grow spiritually. Both are tests that reveal our spiritual maturity. In the previous section James dealt with trials, and now he discusses temptation. In this section James reveals three things we must know about temptation if we are to turn it down.


#1) The origin of temptation.

Look again with me at James 1:13-14, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”


Temptation is a test we may fail. When we do, we often play the blame game and give all kinds of excuses, one of which is to blame God or as Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it.” Therefore, James writes: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. Notice James doesn't write "if he is tempted" but when he is tempted. We will be tempted every day in our thoughts, words, and actions. That's why Jesus said in Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation.”


This sounds like a contradiction because James says God doesn't tempt anyone. But, Jesus did not say, "Lord, do not tempt us." God cannot entice us to sin because He is absolutely holy; however, He does allow us to be tempted to test our faith. The petition in the Lord's Prayer could be translated, "Do not allow us to fall into temptation." In Matthew 26:41 Jesus says to His disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.”


You see blaming God for sin occurs in the very first temptation experienced by mankind. God places Adam in the beautiful Garden of Eden where he could eat the delicious fruit of thousands of trees. Adam and Eve are forbidden to eat from only one tree in the garden. But when God confronts Adam about eating the forbidden fruit he responds in Genesis 3:12 by saying, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

This is exactly the kind of logic James prohibits. God is never even indirectly responsible for our sin. However, we always want to blame someone. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, but God held them all responsible.


The origin of all our sin is when we are drawn away by our own lust, and enticed. The word translated drawn away means to lure away, and carries the idea of fishing with a lure. When you go fishing, you use lures to try and “lure” or draw away the fish to bite the hook.


The word translated enticed means "to entrap." The idea here is that once the fish is drawn away towards the hook, and now he bites it and is literally “hooked.” Now, I've got him! The devil uses the same strategy. We saw this tactic used in the life of King David. One evening David gets up from bed, walks around on the roof of his palace, and sees in the distance the beautiful Bathsheba bathing. Instead of turning away, he is drawn away by desire. II Samuel 11:4 says, “And David sent messengers, and took her.”


The devil dangles the bait before David, gets him to think about it, and then David takes it "hook, line, and sinker." He was drawn away and then enticed or entrapped. There is a great truth all of us need to learn from this incident: give the devil an inch, and he will take a foot; give him a second, and he will take a lifetime; give him a thought and he will take that thought and make it a reality in your life. Psalm 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”


To turn down temptation, we must know the origin of temptation, which is our own evil desires, and…

#2) The outcome of temptation.

James 1:15-16 says, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”


James describes the outcome like this: Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. When tempted, we need to consider the outcome. When conceived or gratified, sin leads to death. It can bring death to a reputation, to happiness, or to a marriage. James is not referring to an isolated act or series of isolated acts, but rather a lifestyle of giving in to temptation, which leads to habitual sin. Sin is always destructive! Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”


The consequences of giving in to sin are always bad, and that's why James writes: Do not err, my beloved brethren. Just as night follows day, suffering follows sin.

As someone has said, "Sin will take you further than you want to go. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you more than you want to pay." After his sin with Bathsheba, David wrote Psalm 51, where we see some of the consequences of sin. One is that sin makes us feel dirty. That's why David prays in Psalms 51:2, Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”


When we sin, we feel spiritually dirty. That's the difference between a true Christian and a lost person. A child of God cannot lapse into sin without feeling that it soils his or her soul. A lost person can leap into sin and love it like a hog loves a mud puddle. One way to know you are a Christian is your sin makes you feel dirty and in need of God's spiritual cleansing.


To turn down temptation, we must know the origin of temptation, the outcome of temptation (Sorrow, misery, guilt and ultimately death).


#3) How to overcome temptation.

James 1:17-18 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”


The devil can lead us into sin only if we are incredibly short-sighted and forget every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God. In contrast to what the devil tries to do to us through temptation, God gives us what is good for us. The word translated perfect here means "complete or lacking nothing." It means God gives us gifts perfectly matched for our personalities, maturity levels, and needs.


Forgetting the origin of all our good and perfect gifts can cause us to give in to temptation. This is especially true during times of extended prosperity. When the Israelites come to the border of the Promised Land, great prosperity is in their future, but so is their greatest temptation.


Therefore, Moses warns the Israelites what may happen when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied (Deut. 8:12-13). What happens is revealed in Deuteronomy 8:14 which says, “Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”


To illustrate God never changes, James writes that all our good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

The sun always gives light; it never gives darkness, and that never changes. In the same way, God does not shift from giving us good and perfect gifts to occasionally tempt us to do evil. The only thing that will ever stop us from receiving good and perfect gifts from God is our sin.

God wants to give us only good and perfect gifts. He wants us to go to heaven, but the devil wants us to go to hell.


This is why James writes: Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. The phrase begat he us refers to being born spiritually or the new birth, which is really starting life over again with God. It is getting a fresh start in life.


Another gift from God is that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. James originally wrote to Jewish believers, who understood the term first fruits. In the Old Testament, Jews offered the first fruits (first crops to ripen) as an offering to God to express their gratitude and faith that more was to come.


When we remember we are the first fruits of God's kingdom, it should remind us to live as first fruits, or examples, of God's new creation in a world overwhelmed with temptation. For us to do that, the Bible tells us: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able. (1 Cor. 10:13). Then, we also have a wonderful promise found at the end of verse 13which says, “But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” We have to be able to escape the temptation that leads to sin and destruction.


To turn down temptation, you must know the origin of temptation, the outcome of temptation, and how to overcome temptation.



Lesson 3  —>