“I can resist anything – except temptation!” – Oscar Wilde
You probably chuckled when you read that statement. I know that because all of us know what it is like to resist temptation and fail! However, every single one of us faces struggles and temptations where the consequences of our decisions are enormous. Every single day in my community (and yours) there are Christians who are tempted to return that Facebook message from their old boyfriend or to take that money from their employer. You get the picture. This week as I prepared to teach a Sunday school lesson from James 1:13-18 in LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum, I was particularly moved as I revisited the issue of temptation. Please allow me to share two important truths that I gleaned from these verses…
First, our temptations follow a predictable pattern.
“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:13–15, HCSB)
Some Bible commentators say that v. 14 is an illusion to fishing. Like a fish is enticed by the bait, so we are drawn away and enticed by what tempts us. Regardless, all of us realize that all temptation begins with some enticement – be it money, sex, pleasure, power, etc. However, being enticed for a moment is just the beginning of temptation. If it is not dealt with immediately, then we get fixated and in our minds and hearts we reach the point where we convince ourselves that it is O.K. to go ahead. That’s the picture painted in v. 15; that is when “desire has conceived and it gives birth to sin.” It is only after we have internally decided it is acceptable that we externally commit the sin.
Think about it. Think about your greatest temptation. I am sure that you can immediately identify certain patterns in your temptations. Where are you and what is going on in your life when you feel the temptation most intensely? Are you alone or with other people? Are there similar thoughts that continue to enter your mind as justification for yielding to this temptation? If you can identify your “pressure points” and circumstances that tend to lead you into temptation, then you can identify ways that you can avoid being tempted in the first place. Where you draw your line is where you fight your battle.
Finally, turning to Jesus is the first answer to temptation.
“Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16–18, HCSB)
Isn’t that interesting? James points us to Christ and our salvation when discussing temptation. V. 16 reminds us that most temptation comes from what we perceive to be an unfulfilled need. Most sin happens when we try to fill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Christ is the source that meets our needs, and He never changes and never fails! Should you have an accountability partner? Absolutely. Should you take steps to avoid situations where you can be tempted? Absolutely. However, the first place you should always run is to your Redeemer! He is the giver of everything you need to love Him and live for Him.
Think about a dog that has a bone. Let’s say that you walk up to that dog and attempt to take the bone away. What is going to happen? You’ll get bit every time. However, let’s say you stop by Publix and buy a fresh, juicy steak. You walk up to that dog and place the steak on the ground. What will happen? You can have the bone because the dog has left the bone for something far better!
You see, Christ is far better and far more satisfying than anything that may tempt you. The more you treasure Christ, the less you will treasure what tempts you. Think about it.