Temptation is as natural as breathing. In fact, if you are breathing, you are tempted. It happens to all of us. It’s how life works. I want to make two points before moving on. First, don’t play like you are never tempted. This would be like being a hypocrite. If every person in the Bible was tempted including Jesus, then I am sort of silly to play like I am too spiritual, or too smart, or too old to be tempted.

The Book of James – How Life Works
By Pastor Delbert Young

2. How Temptation Works

James the book that's how life works

2. How Temptation Works

Scriptures: Hebrews 4:15, 1 Corinthians 10:12, James 1:13, James 1:14, James 1:15, Colossians 2:14, Colossians 2:15

We are in our series on the book of James we are calling “The Way Life Works.” Last week we talked about the way trials work. We saw everyone has trials. No one is exempt. We saw a Biblical trial will test our faith in Jesus. A real trial will cause us to question and doubt God. It will cause us to think, if not say, I don’t know if I want to be a Christ follower. But when the trial is over, we are a more complete person, a more mature person, and lack less. If the trial was in our finances, we should have learned and matured through the financial trial, and we should have learned how to manage our finances better. It’s the same way with our marriages, our children, our work, and anything about life because that’s the way life works.

Today we will be talking about temptation. So, let’s call this lesson “How Temptation Works.” Has anyone here ever been tempted in any way? Are there a few things seeming to tempt us more than other things and if we are not careful, they will cause us to sin? Can you imagine your life without your temptations? Probably not because the temptations you face have always been a part of your life and usually we think of them as fun and exciting. Isn’t this strange? So, this is a relevant message.

Temptation is universal. Everyone has temptations. We all have weaknesses. None of us are as good on the inside as we appear to be on the outside. We all have darkness inside we constantly deal with. As we have seen in the news recently and over the years, even the clergy (Roman Catholic priests) have horrible darkness inside. None of us are immune to temptation. Even Jesus Christ was tempted. We are aware of his temptations in the wilderness by the Devil. But there were other temptations such as Gethsemane. The Bible says,

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.

Temptation is as natural as breathing. In fact, if you are breathing, you are tempted. It happens to all of us. It’s how life works. I want to make two points before moving on. First, don’t play like you are never tempted. This would be like being a hypocrite. If every person in the Bible was tempted including Jesus, then I am sort of silly to play like I am too spiritual, or too smart, or too old to be tempted.

The second point is the people you love very deeply, such as your spouse, children, people you are trying to win into the kingdom, etc. also have temptations. That’s right. The person you are sitting next to right now in church wars with temptations. Guess what? The person you are listening to right now and looking at right now has temptations. If anyone projects they do not have temptations, and they have developed to a place where they are superior to the rest of us concerning temptation, get away from them as quickly as possible. They are about to fall. The Bible says,

(TLB) 1 Corinthians 10:12 So be careful. If you are thinking, “Oh, I would never behave like that” – let this be a warning to you. For you too may fall into sin.

Who is responsible for temptations? Have you ever wondered why God was allowing you (of all people) to go through some temptation? Is God responsible for tempting me? Have you ever questioned, “Is God testing me with this temptation? Or, is the devil tempting me?” Here is what James says.

James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

James says point blank it is not God tempting us with evil. Stop blaming God. He will tempt us with good, but never tempt us with evil.

Isn’t it amazing how us humans want to blame someone else when we fall into temptation? If we can’t find someone specific, we blame God or we blame the Devil. It’s human nature no matter if you are male or female. It’s always been this way. Remember how in the Garden of Eden when God asked the man Adam about being tempted and messing up? The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Gen 3:12). Then God asked the woman and she said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen 3:13). The serpent said, “You made this way. It’s just my nature.” Do we ever say this? “Well, it’s just how I am!”

James 1:14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

A fishing metaphor can be used to explain how we are tempted. Let’s look at a few specific words and terms in James 1:14. James uses “each one” and “tempted” and “desire” and “dragged away” and “enticed.”

Every fish has a favorite food. For example, a bluegill loves crickets and worms. A crappie loves live minnows. A largemouth bass loves lures imitating small fish. Striped bass love live shad. And the list goes on and on. The point is the correct food will “entice” any fish no matter how large or how old or how smart the fish may be. If the fisher-person can “tempt” the fish and “entice” the fish to strike, the fish can be “dragged away.” The interesting thing is they actually see the hook, but the enticement and appetite are more powerful than seeing the hook.

It’s this way with you and me. There is my favorite thing that will “tempt” and “entice” me to strike. The Devil will keep changing baits until he finds one enticing us. He will put it right in my path. I see the hook. I know if I strike this bait, it will hook me and drag me away. We say, “Well, what’s so bad about that? I like it. I enjoy it? Give me a break.”

I release most of the fish I catch. But ever so often, I catch a trophy and I keep it to mount on my wall. Or, I keep a few eat – devour. My point is eventually we will not be released and put back to strike another day. One day, the thing enticing us will destroy us. James says,

James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

This is probably a really good time to define a Biblical temptation. A Biblical temptation will destroy you if not resisted. James uses the birth process to explain how temptation works. First temptation comes as a desire. If the desire is given into, conception takes place. When conceived, birth happens. If allowed to fully grow, it brings death and destruction. Let’s look at the verse one more time.

James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

I am somewhat reluctant to use this illustration for several reasons, but it fits so well I will use it anyway. My brother-in-law was a very good man. He loved his wife and his children. He was extremely likeable and had lots of friends, but Jimmy loved to smoke cigarettes. He smoked from the time he was fifteen years of age until he died at sixty with lung cancer. If you know me, you know I do not condemn people who use tobacco. The Bible doesn’t. So, how can I? However, I do say it’s not the smartest thing we can do, and I do encourage people to break the habit. Jimmy was tempted, enticed and dragged away. It led to Jimmy’s death.

Was it God who cancer on Jimmy? Was it the devil? Or, was it Jimmy? Did Jimmy know there was a hook in there? Oh yes. He had watched some close friends die of lung cancer. The warnings were all over every package. Still, he was tempted, enticed, dragged away, and died.

My question was not “Why God?” My question was “Why Jimmy?” “Why did you use tobacco when you knew what it was doing to you?” But then I look at me and the things I struggle with. How can I keep doing some of the things I do when I know they have the potential to eventually destroy me? If this were to be the case, my question cannot be “Why God?” I really can’t say, “The Devil made me do it.” My question must be, “Why Delbert?”

What is the solution? I fear we fall into a trap of thinking somehow, one day, we will be delivered from all our temptations. We are deceived into believing magically, one by one, ever temptation will vanish away and never tempt us again. Maybe we can become “spiritual” enough. Well, Jesus never did. Maybe we can become old enough. Well, Abraham never did. Maybe we can become smart enough. Well, Solomon never did. Using my fishing metaphor, a bluegill will never stop being tempted by crickets. A crappie will never stop being tempted by minnows. A large mouth bass will never stop being tempted by smaller fish. A striped bass will never stop being tempted by live shad. It’s in their nature. So, what are we to do?

This is where Christ followers have the edge. We have the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. We have the angels and the cloud of witnesses cheering us on. We have Jesus praying for us. We have Father God loving us. And we have the cross and the blood of Jesus to cleanse us.

Here is what I do. First, I recognize the bait can entice me. I am very aware of what tempts me. Second, I have a friend I talk to about my temptations. I have known him for twenty-five years and I can trust him. I am accountable to him. He can ask me any time how I am doing. He tells me his temptations and he knows he can trust me. The Bible says to confess our faults to one another – ONE another. I am very careful to whom I confess. Third, I find there are times I need to pray more intensely about a temptation than usual. I need to talk to Jesus. I need the power of the Holy Spirit. I bring it to the Lord and allow his blood to cleanse my mind from the thoughts of the temptation. I call this bringing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14 and blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.

Colossians 2:15 In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away.

I want to take away Satan’s power of temptation. I bring it to the cross. I nail it there. The cross triumphs over my sin.

Today, we have a cross set before you. Each of us should have a red card with “temptation” written on it. What I ask you to do now is to take a minute and quiet your mind. You know what bait you like. You know your temptations. I want you to write them. A temptation isn’t necessarily a lust like pornography or homosexuality. It can be an addiction. It is the thing if you allowed to run its own way, it will destroy you. It can be as simple as overeating. It can be as addictive as cocaine. It can be greed or anger or all the above. Some may have only one. Some may have many. I have caught catfish on every type of bait I mentioned and many other baits. My point and purpose are to get us to look at our hearts. What is it we need to nail to his cross? What is it we need to frequently remove from Satan’s power? What I want us to do is write our temptations down on the inside of the card. Fold it back and then come and nail it to the cross. Nail them all over the cross. When we are done, we will see a cross with our transgressions nailed there.

Other Related Sermons:

Trials How They Work – sermon video audio notes

Listen to Warnings on the Inside – sermon video audio notes

Gethsemane We All Have One – video audio notes Luke 22:39-48