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Sin fundamentally, is rooted in a lack of faith in the goodness of God. Therefore, every temptation is an invitation to distrust God.
Been a long time since we’ve talked, but there’s no time like the present right?
Have you ever been driving on the freeway for a while and out of nowhere you found yourself in your driveway? I’m talking about the that “I can’t even recall the last 10 miles” type situation. Or is it just me?
I imagine if you’ve had your driver’s license for any extended period of time, it has happened to you. Somehow, some way, your mind drifted off into outer space or you were so intently focused on some music, a podcast or even your own thoughts, that your subconscious literally carried you home. It’s a scary feeling because the one time you NEED to be fully engaged and paying attention to what is happening is while driving a vehicle; especially in California. Yet, we’ve all been there and you can’t ever pinpoint exactly when you fell into a vehicular stupor you just know you did.
This is how James, the brother of Jesus, describes the process of sin coming into fruition in a person’s life (believer or unbeliever). Most of the time when we sin, we tend to focus on the action itself and even more so, we try to find all types of reasons to shirk responsibility, like: 1) Blaming other people; 2) Blaming life’s circumstances; or 3) Blaming God. James says, “Nah bro/sis!”, it was your own doing. In fact here’s exactly what he says:
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 (NASB = ‘carried 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
James intimates (I love this word by the way) that what we really believe about God is revealed in how we respond to temptation/sin. Ever since the Fall, we humans have become expert blame-shifters, always looking for a way out, but James, pulling no punches, says, “You are to blame!”. Every time we give into temptation it is because we wanted to and have chosen to. Period. And to be clear, when connecting these verses with the previous verses he exonerates God (as if God needed any help) by basically saying, Douglass Moo writes, “God tests, but He never tempts.” Therefore, the moment we even fix our mouths to blame God, we’ve revealed that our theology (or what we think about God) is deeply flawed.
What helps me in this passage is that James doesn’t just state the obvious end result (which is sin), but he communicates how and why it happens. In other words, there is a process and that process begins when we allow ourselves to be carried away by our own evil/sinful desires (v.14). Let the weight of that statement sink in.
Yes, having evil/sinful desires such as lust, greed, pride, are bad and unfortunately a reality we all have to endure until the Day we’re released from the presence of sin when Jesus returns (even so, come Lord Jesus). However, James says, what’s even worse is when we let these desires drag or carry us away so far that it results in the actual commission of sin.
If you notice the order of the passage he doesn’t say we are enticed then carried away, but the other way around. We are carried away and then enticed by our own evil desires. That means an opportunity to sin presents itself after we’ve allowed our hearts/minds to be carried away. The imagery is that of hunting/fishing. You usually catch something after it has drifted off the path or away from the pack. Then you entice it with the bait. So then, when we take our focus off of following Christ and engaging in healthy fellowship with His Church, our wandering, fickle hearts naturally drift away towards any and everything or to bring it home more closely, “your thing”/”my thing”. It happens so subtlety and just as it is hard to pinpoint exactly when we drifted off driving, the same applies here. All we know, according to James, is that it happened and we are the only ones to blame be cause we allowed those desires to simmer until they boiled over into sin. Ouch!
What’s the solution? For James, the answer is simple; trust God. You probably grimaced at that statement. Like how dare me tell you to just simply “trust God” as if it were that easy. I wonder though if our understanding of faith is not all that it should be. We tend to think of faith in terms of passivity, but what if is more of a verb than a noun? A.W. Tozer defined faith as, “the gaze of the soul upon a saving God” (Ch. 7 – The Pursuit of God). If he is right (and I believe he is), then the way we combat temptation, the way we overcome our innate evil desires and walk in the victory secured by Jesus Christ in His life, death and resurrection, is to constantly fix our eyes on Him, in everything. In our work, in prayer, in the Word, in ministry, in fellowship, in parenting, in marriage, in singleness, in everything! Look to Him (through the Spirit), our all-sufficient, wonderful savior, who reveals to us our good, good Father from whence every good and perfect gift comes; even trials. Trust HIM!
If you’re struggling with sin right (and we all are), identify who/what it is your soul has been gazing upon and quickly now turn your eyes (the eyes of your heart/mind) to Jesus. Our safety and our victory lies not in the ever-changing seasons, circumstances, desires of life and our hearts, “…but in God’s immutability” (Thomas Manton). He never changes, He never fails and has promised to reward us with what ever we need so long as we diligently seek Him, keep our gaze fixed on Him, rely ultimately on Him (see Hebrews 11:6) and above all don’t get carried away! When it gets are, ask Him for help. He stands willing and waiting to supply exactly what we need the moment we need it. I’m reminded of that old hymn that goes:
Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin
Each victory will help you or some others to win
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue
Look ever to Jesus and He’ll carry you throughJust ask the Savior to help you
To comfort, strengthen and keep you
He is willing to aid you
And He will carry you through(Horatio Palmer, 1868)
Re-adjusting my focus,