Blessed Are the Tempted
Today we’re looking into the topic “Blessed Are the Tempted” so take your copy of God’s Word and turn to James chapter 1.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
This beatitude is a great encouragement because it promises a crown to those who patiently endure trials. The believer is rewarded by enduring trials. Satan wants to use trials to tear us down, but God uses them to build us up.
The motivation is love. James uses love as the spiritual motivation behind the imperative in this section. We can have a joyful attitude as we face trials because we love God, He loves us, and He will not harm us.
This statement is in complete agreement with the recurring word of Jesus: “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13). The trials and tribulations of life in this world are not to be endured out of a dull indifference to pleasure or pain. Rather, they are to be endured in a helpful and loving faith in God through Jesus Christ – Who will see His people through safely.
Temptations (James 1:13-18)
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.
We must distinguish carefully between “testing times” and “tempting times.” God permits tests so that believers might show the genuineness and durability of their faith. Temptation, on the other hand, does not come from God. Sometimes the trials are times of testing on the outside; and sometimes they are temptations on the inside. Trials may be tests sent by God, or they may be temptations sent by Satan and encouraged by our fallen nature.
If we are not careful, the testing on the outside may become temptation on the inside. When our circumstances are difficult, we may find ourselves complaining against God, questioning His love, and resisting His will. At this point, Satan provides us with an opportunity to escape the difficulty. (James 1:13-15) provide us with an “anatomy of a temptation.” In v13, after using the word “temptation,” in the sense of trial, James now uses it in the sense of solicitation to sin. God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt anyone with it. Evil temptations come from evil – not from God.
James quotes someone as saying, “I am tempted by God.” James responds by saying that God is not even the remote source of temptation. Don’t blame God for temptation. He is too holy to be tempted, and He is too loving to tempt others. God does test us as He did Abraham (Genesis 22); but He does not and cannot tempt us.
A temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way – out of the will of God. In v14, James states very pointedly where the responsibility lies. Ultimately, “each person” is responsible for their own temptations. The culprit is “lust” (i.e., a strong desire; being beguiled; being allured). This refers to any strong desire outside of God’s will. It might be a desire for fame, position, power, wealth, illicit sexual relations, and so on. God has given us urges which are natural – hunger, thirst, fatigue, anger, etc., and there is nothing wrong with these. It is when we want to satisfy them in ways outside of God’s will that we get into trouble. The secret is being in constant control. These desires must be our servants and not our masters – and this we can do through Jesus Christ.
James used the word “enticed” – which refers to a “deception” or to be “drawn away” (carrying with it the idea of baiting a trap). The Greek word used here means “bait” – carrying with it the image of baiting a hook. James is using fisherman terms here. The fisherman has to use bait in order to attract and catch his prey. The idea is to hide the hook inside the bait. And so, temptation always carries with it some bait that appeals to our natural desires. The bait not only attracts us, but it also hides the fact that yielding to the desire will eventually bring sorrow and judgment. The “bait” (temptation) keeps us from seeing the “hook” (consequences) of sin. James pictured a believer at rest in the settled restraint of disciplined living. Suddenly, the bait was presented, and the believer was lured out of rest. When he took the bait, he was surprised that he had been caught and could not escape.
In v15, James changes the figure of speech from fishing to childbirth. Lust is personified as an evil seductress who entices a person and then conceives a terrible offspring. When lust gives birth, the birth certificate records the name: “sin.” When sin reaches maturity, it, too, takes part in a terrible conception. Sin produces the monstrous offspring “death.”
In “disobedience,” we have moved from the emotions (desire) and the intellect (deception) to the will. Desire conceives a method for taking the bait. The will approves and acts; and the result is sin. The baby is born, and just wait until matures! Christian living is a matter of the will, not the feelings. Immature Christians easily fall into temptation – they let their feelings make their decisions. Disobedience gives birth to death, not life.
In v16, James instructs us not to be deceived. Do not suppose that God is the author of sin or that He compels anyone to commit it. God is never the father in this terrible family of darkness. He is always the “Father of Lights.” This verse may be taken as referring to those just mentioned who deceive themselves with the notion that God has tempted them with evil desire. It can also relate to the point that follows concerning God as the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift.” Christians are to maintain spiritual perspective and not err to recognize that all good gifts come from God.
In v17, James points out that whatever is good comes from God – Who never changes. So whatever is evil comes from Satan and our fallen nature – both of whom are bent on doing whatever gains a selfish and sinful end. One of the enemy’s tricks is to convince us that our Father is holding out on us and that He does not really love and care for us. Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by alluding to this question, “If Your Father loves You, why are You so hungry?” The goodness of God should be a great barrier against yielding to temptation. James presents four facts about the goodness of God: (1) God gives only good gifts; (2) the way God gives (in a loving, gracious manner) is good; (3) God gives constantly (the phrase “comes down” means “to keep coming down”); and (4) God does not change (it is impossible for Him to change).
It is important to note this attribute of unchangeableness. God cannot change for the worse because He is holy and He cannot change for the better because He is already perfect. The phrase “no variation or shadow of turning” is an astronomical term descriptive of the varying positions of the heavenly bodies that cause changes in the seasons of the year. God is not changeable like this. In every season He is the same – neither does He change like the shadow on a sundial. He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He such a great light that not even a shadow can be cast on Him!
In v18, James notes that God does not give birth to temptation, but to regeneration. Lust gives birth to sin and death; but God’s Word gives the new birth and eternal life. In using the phrase “of His own will,” James references that it is God’s will that everyone would be saved – begotten by the Word (John 3:16; 1Timothy 2:4; 2Peter 3:9; Revelation 22:17).
God’s gifts are always better than Satan’s bargains. Satan never gives any gifts because you end up paying for them dearly. V15 tells us to look ahead and beware of judgment. V17 tells us to look around and see how good I’ve been to you. And v18 tells us to look within and realize that you have been born from above and possess the divine nature.
“Who’s to Blame?”
“The Devil made me do it,” was a famous saying by the comedian, Flip Wilson. His comic cop-out is today’s tragedy. The temptation to place blame is alluring. In no area of life is this more evident than the human drift toward irresponsibility for sin.
Society left unchecked can continually drift toward apathy concerning error and iniquity. This is true of us in our society today. We are fast becoming a post-Christian society. A society that no longer recognizes sin – a society driven by secular Humanism that leaves God, Jesus, and sin out of the picture in all walks of life today – sad to say, even in our churches.
SIN is not simply outward disobedience; sin is also inner rebellion or desire. For example, in (1John 2:16), we are warned about the desires of the flesh and of the eyes and about the pride of life – all of which are sinful. There sin is a transgression of the law (3:4), or literally, “lawlessness.” Sin is refusal to submit to the law of God. Sin is basically selfishness. It is what I want to do over against what God would have me do.
You and I must give priority consideration to our bent toward escaping the blame for our sins:
When I refuse blame for my sin, I resign myself to the status of victim and cry, “Exploited! Framed! I’ve been used!”
When I deny blame for my sin, I often substitute excuse for the sin to ease my conscience – which, in turn, deadens my conscience.
When I reject blame for my sin, I lie to myself and aim another shattering blow at my personal integrity.
When I decline blame for my sin, I attempt to exclude myself from accountability for the consequences of my sin.
When I refuse to accept blame for my sin, I endeavor in fantasy to absolve myself of my own guilt.
The irresponsible tendency is: “Who’s to blame?”
Only as you are ready to accept the earthly personal tension of good and evil are you prepared to consider a hard and realistic look at your own bent toward blaming your sin on someone or something else.
Biblical teaching concerning sin, private experiences of temptation to do wrong, personal consequences of your own sin, and knowledge of atrocities caused by sin, all lead us to readily conclude that something other than good exists. Even so, the undeniable tendency to waive responsibility, relinquish liability, and disclaim accountability for sin attest to being ruled by forces or influence beyond personal control prevails. This was true in the story of the serpent, Adam, and Eve (see Genesis 3:1-6).
Whenever God confronted Adam and Eve concerning what had happened, they went on a snake hunt. This is our response to God’s inquiry today! We must see God’s displeasure and intolerance of our tendency to place the blame elsewhere.
Today, we still snake hunt. Consider some of the snakes we blame:
ENVIRONMENT – Even though Lot’s wife never cut ties with the culture of Sodom, her act of turning back was her own choice (Genesis 19:26). Paul certainly grieved over the inability of Demas to follow the call of missions, but in his letter to Timothy, he emphatically labeled Demas’ desertion as a chosen action (2Timothy 4:10).
BAD BLOOD – (1Kings 22:51-53 Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 52 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. 53 He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.). Who could present a better case for an inherited evil? The Scriptures never dismiss his accountability.
RATIONALISM – Jonah resorted to logic in his prayer to vindicate himself and express his displeasure over Ninevah’s repentance (Jonah 4:1ff). And God challenged the validity of his reasoning.
CIRCUMSTANCES – The Prodigal Son’s elder brother attempted to convince his father and himself that his need to stay home, serve the family, and keep the father’s commands gave him the right not to accept his brother (Luke 15:29). Luke does not record any account of the resolution of this sin.
FATE – The man with the single talent attempted to assign to himself the title, “Shortchanged” (Matthew 25:24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed). He lost all.
And the snake hunt goes on! No matter how sin is committed, it will be exposed. Our responsible option is to confess, “I HAVE SINNED.”
Confession of sin is not words alone. Sin is an act of the total person. Responsible admission of guilt involves more than rote words and must reach to the very marrow of the soul. Sin destroys health because the accompanying guilt visits life with a unique stress that eats away at the moral, emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual parts of life.
When I blame my sin on someone else or on any event or any circumstance, I attempt to deny the disease that will kill me. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And we are ultimately faced with the only alternative, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).
Turn your temptation into a test you pass with flying colors. Stand firm on your foundation of faith and build your house upon the Word of God. Then when the winds of temptation blow against you, you may stand firm through confession and repentance of sin.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.