Resisting Temptation: Summary of Phil’s sermon this morning on James 1:12-18

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Sometimes it’s obvious when people are trying to deceive us, Phil said at the beginning of his sermon this morning. We get spam emails asking us to give away our bank details or to contact the man in Africa who wants to give us billions of dollars, and we recognise them for what they are.  But deception – and self-deception – is not always no obvious.  We may, for example, think we’re living a life which is pleasing to God, when in reality we are not doing so well.  And so we need to be alert!

‘Don’t be deceived,’ wrote James in his letter (James 1:16)

James’s subject in James 1:12-18 is ‘Temptation.’ The trials of which James has already written (James 1:1-11)  and which were the subject of Phil’s last sermon, are often accompanied by temptations. It is vital that we understand the nature of temptation so that we can identify it, and deal with it.

Temptation is inevitable

‘When tempted,’ James begins (v12)  Not ‘if tempted,’ but ‘when.’  Temptation is part of the normal Christian life: the question is ‘how can I resist?’  When a temptation is almost imperceptible it is even more insidious and dangerous. We are called to vigilance, to an awareness of temptation as an ever-present threat. It is real, it is here, and it will never go away.

Temptation does not come from God

‘Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed,’ writes James (v14)  It’s easy to blame someone else for the fact that we were tempted and gave in.  Phil referred as back to the story in Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve give way to temptation. They eat the forbidden fruit, and God calls them to account.

‘It was her fault,’ said Adam, in effect. (‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ Genesis 3:12)

‘It was that talking snake’s fault,’ said Eve in effect. (‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’ Genesis 3:13)

Neither of them took responsibility for their own decisions, their own action.

And we see this all the time in life, this tendency to blame others. We learn young. (‘It wiz her fault, Miss’)

And sometimes we blame God. ‘It’s God’s fault! If God hadn’t made me this way, or giving me this weakness, or put me in this position……..’

But God is pure holiness, and sin is against all God stands for, against all God fundamentally is.  It is utterly illogical that God can be the source of it.

When we sin, we are to blame. Phil loves the way The Message paraphrases verses 13-15:

Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, ‘God is trying to trip me up.’ God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.

Phil recounted Phillip Keller’s anaology: if a teacher is setting an exam for students, and tells them in plenty of time, then if, when the exam comes, they fail, they have only themselves to blame. Similarly, we are warned that temptation is ever-present, and God gives us resources to combat temptation: if we fail, the blame is ours.

Temptation is progressive

Here’s verses 14-15 in the NIV version:

each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

The temptation to sin grows in intensity. The first time we do something we know is wrong it perhaps seems safe, delicious even, and we long for more. And each time we bite the forbidden fruit our yearning for more grows still stronger. As James says, when we yield to temptation, the yielding can lead to addiction, the sin can lead to death.

Therefore we must not let ourselves be deceived

‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters,’ writes James (1:16)  And the route to keeping alert in the face of temptation, is being aware of God’s true nature, and not being deceived about who God is. James comtinues:

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. (James 1:16-17)

The goodness of God helps us resist temptation, Phil reminded us.  God is pure, holy, the creator of all things, a God who permeates the universe and sustains it in being, a God for whom all things are possible. Every good thing we receive is a gift from God, a gracious giver.

Phil quoted Proverbs 24:16:

for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

When God is on our side, when we put God first and at the centre of our lives then when we fall we are empowered to begin again, to ‘rise’, to walk forward forgiven, healed.

Christ our example and helper

Christ, at once perfectly God and perfectly human, never gave in to temptation – he is the only person who knows what it is to go through temptation and come out at the other side.

Phil’s fundamental message this morning was that we are not alone as we struggle with temptation. Christ, who ‘was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin’ (Hebrews 4:15) knows and understands us.

This strong, loving, patient Jesus invites us to come and trust him, to say to him ‘Help me please in this time of temptation.’

 

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