These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
You and I are going to be tested and tempted. God wants us to be prepared and He wants us to understand what temptation is and its strategy. Last week we learned that temptations are invitations to abandon God’s will. Today we are going to see a specific strategy or process that temptation uses to drag us away from God’s best for our life. With that said let’s look at James 1:12-15, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (NLT).
The devil is going to do everything he can to tempt you and drag you away from God’s plan and best for your life. The devil is the great tempter. He loves and enjoys trying to pull God’s people away from God’s ways. Jesus encountered the “tempter” in Matthew 4:3 which says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 Then the tempter approached him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (CSB). Jesus faced him and so will you.
The apostle Paul was very aware of the strategies of the devil and his ability to tempt God’s people as we see in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 which says, “For this reason, when I could no longer stand it, I also sent him to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing” (CSB).
You and I need to be familiar with how the tempter works and how temptation operates. We are give a reason why we need to know this in 2 Corinthians 2:11 which says, “… so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes” (NLT). So, what is the strategy of temptation? There are four stages to it.
Stage 1: Desire
The first stage involves our desires. Verse 14 says, “Temptation comes from our own desires…” (NLT).
Let’s talk about “desires” for a minute. God created you. He created the inmost parts of your being. He made male or female. He gave you a personality and He gave you desires. You have the desire for joy, love, and peace. You have a desire to be wanted, accepted, and appreciated. You have a desire to be significant and valued. All these desires are good things and they all come from God. God wants to refine those desires and give you new desires as you grow. Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (NLT). This means that as you delight in the Lord and learn of His ways and enjoy Him, He will give you desires that your heart needs. You find yourself having new desires that honor God and honor people at deeper levels.
But there is a problem with our desires. They have been and are being corrupted by the sinful nature that we are all born with. Our desire to be loved and accepted can lead us into sexual immorality. Our desire to be significant and valuable can lead us into greed and jealousy. Our desires for happiness and peace can lead us into selfishness and pride.
When our God-given natural desires are mixed with the sinful nature they are often fulfilled in unnatural and ungodly ways. That’s where temptation wants to take you. Temptation wants to take your God-given natural desires and fulfill those desires outside of God’s will.
Let’s look at this a little closer. Notice carefully that God’s Word says, “Temptation comes from our own desires….” You have your “own” set of personal desires. It may be more important for you to feel pleasure and be happy, than to be significant. So you will find that your temptations lie primarily in the realm of pleasure and happiness. This is why you are tempted by one thing and your spouse and children are tempted by something else.
So how does our natural and God-given desires end up being fulfilled outside of God’s will? This takes us to stage 2.
Stage 2: Deception
The second stage involves deception. Look at verse 14 again, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away” (NLT).
- The words “entice us” are a fisherman’s term which means “lured by a bait.”
- The words “drag us away” are a hunter’s term which literally mans “snared in a trap.”
Here’s the idea: The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap and no fish will knowingly bite at a bare hook. The idea is to hide the trap and hide the hook.
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 in the wrong way will eventually bring sorrow and punishment.
What kind of bait does the devil use on you? He knows your weaknesses. He knows you inside and out. He knows what will get your attention away from God. He knows what you struggle with. He hides his hook and he hides his trap within the camouflage of your weaknesses.
Satan will try to deceive you. He will always make sin look safe. He will always make sin look rewarding. He will sometimes make sin look like the right thing to do. He will make it look better than it really is. That’s the deception. But look at verse 16, “So don’t be mislead, my dear brothers and sisters” (NLT). God does not want you to be deceived. He wants you to know the truth. God knows that if you are deceived it will lead to step three.
Stage 3: Disobedience
The third stage involves disobedience. Verse 15 goes on to say, “These desires give birth to sinful actions” (NLT). Another way to say this is, “Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin….” (CSB). So here is what is going on. When your sinful desires encounter an opportunity to be fulfilled in a wrong way then temptation is conceived and at that moment if you do not find the way out this conception of desire and opportunity will give birth to sin.
Here is what happens. First the devil gets your attention then he gets you to have the wrong attitude then he encourages you to commit the action. The devil knows that whatever you flirt with, you will fall for. The Bible says what starts in your mind eventually comes out in your lifestyle. Desire leads to deception, and deception leads to disobedience.
One of the best illustrations of this is King David. While his armies were out fighting, David stayed in Jerusalem, lounging and lingering at the palace (2 Sam. 11:1). Had he been with his army where he was supposed to be, he could have avoided the downward plunge into immorality. But instead of waging physical war on the battlefield, David fought a spiritual war against temptation – and lost. It started out innocently enough. As he meandered on the palace roof, the king’s wandering eyes caught a woman bathing (11:2). This accidental glance was not itself a sin. But mixed with David’s restless urges, that unintentional glance quickly became a willful stare. He noticed she was “very beautiful” (11:2). The focus of his gaze and his internal desires conceived a powerful temptation that few men in David’s position could resist. Like a victim dropping through a trap door, David’s plunge from temptation to sin followed in a break-neck progression. He inquired about her (11:3)… sent for her (11:4)… and slept with her (11:4) – all the while knowing she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (11:3).
David’s sin didn’t end in adultery. His immorality turned into desperate attempts at cover up, leading ultimately to two deaths – the death of Uriah the Hittite and the death of his son, the product of his one-night stand (2 Sam. 11:5 – 12:14). From lust to death, David’s temptation becomes a textbook example of temptation and sexual lust, almost as if he took the slippery slope of sin in James 1:14-15 as a script.
The most frightening thing about David’s sin is that it happened to “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). If such a great man of God can fall so suddenly and so severely, we shouldn’t think for a moment that it can’t happen to us. That’s the bad news about temptation.
Stage 4: Death
The fourth and final stage of temptation is death. Look at verse 15 again, “And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (NLT). If you don’t take the way out that God provides when being tempted, eventually you will experience death in some way. The word “death” can refer to many types of death. The Bible talks about four types of death.
The first type is physical death. This is separating the soul from the body. Sin can produce this kind of death. Sometimes people can die as a result of sin, such as those infected with diseases through sexual sin or those whose alcoholism or drug addiction leads to premature death.
Another type is spiritual death. This is the separation of the soul from God. We all start out separated from God spiritually. This is why we need Jesus to save us and give us eternal life.
A third type of death is eternal death, also known as the second death. This separation of body and soul from God forever. The first death is being separated from your body, the second death is being separated from God forever. When those two happen at the same time you experience eternal death.
A fourth type of death is what I call life-style death. This is separating the way you choose to live from the way God wants you to live. This death is more of a path than a destination. The Bible often uses the word “death” to describe a poor quality of life, a life lived outside of God’s will. A life that has abandoned God’s way of living. Let me give you some examples.
- Moses, speaking on behalf of God, said in Deuteronomy 30:15, “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster” (NLT). Death is seen as living a life that ends in disaster. A life that is outside of the will of God.
- Proverbs 12:28 says, “The way of the godly leads to life; that path does not lead to death” (NLT). A godly life does not lead to things that are associated with death and separation.
- Proverbs 13:14 says, “The instruction of the wise is like a life-giving fountain; those who accept it avoid the snares of death” (NLT).
The Bible is clear that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Sin always produces death of some kind. James could be referring to all four, but I don’t think he is. He is writing to believers, people who have placed their faith in Christ and have eternal life. Because of the practical emphasis of James and who he is writing to I think James is referring to life-style death. When Christians sin it gives birth to death in your life. Death of a relationship, death of joy, death of hope, and death of true meaning. This is where the Christian forfeits a lot of the “abundant life” that Jesus bought for them.
Separating the soul from the body
1 Corinthians 11:30; James 5:15; 1 John 5:16-17
Separating the soul from God
Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1; 4:18
Separating both soul and body from God forever
Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8
Separating God’s way from your way
Deut. 30:15; Prov. 12:28; 13:14
- Desires: “our own desires”
- Deception: “entice us and drag us away”
- Disobedience: “give birth to sinful actions”
- Death: “gives birth to death”
“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
1 John 1:9