What does James says about winning against temptation?
Principle #2. The Four Key Words of Life: I Take Full Responsibility
Accept responsibility. Don’t blame other people for your problems. We love to blame people, even God. V. 13 “When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”
We are in a society of irresponsibility. Blame society, blame the government, blame the environment, blame heredity, blame your parents, blame your spouse, blame the devil, even blame God. Listen, God’s will is found in God’s word. Don’t make your bad choices and then blame them on God. God does not tempt. He never contradicts His word. God is not going to tell you one thing and have the Bible say something different. If the Bible says something and you say something different, you’re wrong. Be responsible. Don’t blame God and don’t blame other people. It’s a sign of immaturity.
Here’s the unvarnished truth – I bring most of my problems onto myself. So do you. We bring them on ourselves. If I’m ever going to break those bad habits I want to get rid of, first I have to be realistic: I am tempted. Then number two, I’ve got to be responsible. I quit passing the buck and making excuses. I own my sin. I own my weaknesses.
Principle #3. Head on a Swivel.
When temptation comes, be ready. Be prepared for it. Peter says, “Be on your guard.” Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation.” Paul said, “Put on the whole armor of God“. Be ready. Be prepared. Head on a swivel. The next attack, the next temptation can come from anywhere at anytime.
“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. Don’t be deceived my dear brothers…” Notice the word “deceived” — we need to be ready and prepared for temptation. Temptation does not warn you in advance. One of the reasons it’s a temptation is because you don’t even know it’s there. It catches you by surprise. You’ve got to be ready and on your guard. We are most vulnerable after a tremendous success. We think we’re doing OK. The Bible says, “Let him who thinks he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”
How do you prepare for temptation? How do you get ready for it? By understanding how it operates. 2Corinthians 2:11says, “In order that Satan might not outwit us, we are not unaware of his schemes.” God wants you to know how the devil operates, how he tempts. The only thing you can say about the devil that’s good is this: he’s consistent. He’s been using the same old bag of tricks for 2000+ years and longer. It’s very easy to discover his process. Temptation is a process, never just a one-time act. James outlines the four steps that the devil uses in order to tempt you.
#1. v. 14 “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires…” — the first step of temptation is desire. It’s an inside job. Most desires are OK. You couldn’t live without desires: a desire to eat, drink, sleep, the sexual desire, to accomplish. God gives us these desires. Those are good desires. They are good gifts. But any desire out of control becomes destructive. Satan loves to take routine desires and turn them into runaway desires. You are consumed, obsessed by it: food, work, having fun, sex, money. Legitimate desires but when they are out of control they become a problem.
#2. The second step is deception. “He is dragged away and enticed …” James uses a couple of terms from the sports world. The word “dragged away” is a hunter’s term which literally means “snared in a trap”. “Enticed” is a fisherman’s term which means “lured by bait”. The secret of great fishing is in the bait. The right kind of bait for the right kind of fish.
What kind of bait does the devil use on you? He knows your hot button. He knows your weakness. He knows you inside and out. He knows what turns you on. He knows what you will fall for. He hides his hook in his bait and the bait appeals to your weakness. The crazy thing is that often we see the hook and we know it’s a temptation but we keep right on nibbling. People say to me, “Pastor Mike, back off. I know what I’m doing. I’m an adult. I’m not going to get hurt. I know how far to go.” And that person is deceived. They’ve gone to step two — from desire to deception.
It always starts with the desire. Then Satan moves to deception. Temptation always looks better than it really is. Desire turns to deception and deception turns to disobedience.
#3. Disobedience. “Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin.” What begins in your mind results in an action. It starts in your imagination. The battle starts with your thoughts. It moves from your thoughts into actions. First the devil gets your attention, then he gets you to have an attitude, then he gets you to commit the action. He knows if he can get your attention he will eventually get you to commit the action. People say, “What’s the danger in a harmless fantasy?” What starts in your mind eventually comes out in your life. It always begins in the imagination. What 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, deception leads to disobedience. Disobedience leads to death.
#4. Death. “Sin, when full grown gives birth to death.” That’s the tragic consequence of giving in. That’s what losing the battle causes — devastating results. What is death? The exact opposite of living. If you overcome temptation you get the crown of life, but the wages of sin are death — spiritual separation from God. James says we are free to choose any way we want to live. I could choose any way I want to live and so can you. God gave me the freedom of choice. I could choose to live any way I want to. But I am not free to choose the consequences of the choices.
In order to overcome temptation, in order to break a bad habit, first I’ve got to be realistic, and admit I have a problem. Then I’ve got to be responsible and not blame anybody else and quit making excuses. Then I get ready by understanding what happens during temptation so I can learn how to avoid it.