In the last several weeks from the letter of James, the epistle of James, we've been discussing temptation because James has been discussing temptation. And this evening we want to finish his discussion of temptation by covering verses 9 through 18. I'm going to turn with me to the epistle of James, James chapter 1.
While you're turning, allow me to review with you that which we've already done in preparation for that which we'll do this evening. We saw in verses 2 through 4 several weeks ago that James says that trials are used by God to help us grow and that we should thank God for them, that they produce maturity and steadfastness in our life. And then last week we talked about verses 5 through 8 where James tells us that God promises wisdom to those of us who need it in facing our trials.
We concluded that those of us who need it means everybody. So if we'll ask God for wisdom, He'll give it. If we'll simply trust Him, if we'll believe Him, if we'll believe first of all that He did die for our sins, if we believe Him as our Savior, if we believe that He can give the wisdom and then if we believe that He will, God promises we'll get the wisdom. And now in finishing his discussion on trials, he again instructs us, James does, to endure our trials, to face them with God's help and let God help us overcome. Let's begin together in verse 9. "...But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position, and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.
For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass, and its flower falls off, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed. So to the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away." Now it's verses like these that defy people to outline this book because here we are discussing temptation and all of a sudden, right in the middle, are these verses talking about poor people and rich people? What does this have to do with anything that James is discussing?
Well I must confess I don't claim to have all the answers. It seems to me that what he's saying is this, that both poor and rich need to rejoice in their trials, need to trust God and ask for wisdom in their trials. The poor man needs to rejoice because of his rich position with God. Verse 9, let the humble brother, the brother of humble circumstances, glory in his high position, let him rejoice even though he may be poor materially, that God has received him and God has exalted him, and now God is blessing him with problems as a means to help him grow. Let the rich also glory in his trials because his poverty in spiritual things means that he needs to depend upon Christ, not money. And those of us here who are probably among the richest people in the entire world need to remember, verses 10 and 11, that God brings trouble into our lives as rich people even though we may not think we are rich.
We are so rich to teach us to depend on him because if he didn't do that, we depend on our money, and that's why God has to bring circumstances into our life that our money cannot solve, to teach us to depend on him. And I think that's all James is saying here, that whether you're poor or whether you're rich, this exhortation is still yours. But then he goes on to talk about enduring trials, and this is where we want to concentrate beginning at verse 12, blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.
For once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised them who love him. Let no one say, when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. And when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, nor shifting shadow. In the exercise of his will, he brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among his creatures. These are our verses that we want to concentrate on this evening.
We want to take them apart, put them back together, and figure out what James is saying. And I see them this way, and this is how I'd like to take you through, that James is really giving us here four reasons why, as believers, we need to persevere under the stress and strain of trials. They're not complicated reasons. They're not even profound reasons, but they're good reasons.
Let's look at them. Reason number one, why should we rejoice and endure? Verse 12, because there's reward for those that do.
Because there's reward for those who do. James says, blessed is the man, highly favored is the man, who perseveres on the trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised those who love him. This word here to be approved, it's a very interesting word. It means to pass the test, to be worthy of reward.
It was the word that was used when you won an Olympic race or an Olympic event. You were this word. You were approved for reward. You had won. You deserved a reward, and it was forthcoming.
And so God says, when we endure under trials, when we hang in there, when we let God give us the strength we need, and we pass the test, then he has special reward for us. Now, this is a while back, but I can still remember Bill Cosby on TV doing the Ford commercials. And he says, you know, we take this car, we run it through the thing, and we run it here, and after we do all that, we stamp it, approved. I guess pinto's qualify? I don't know.
Maybe that's why they stopped doing the commercials. But you know, when we endure under God's testing, when we let God put us in the difficult circumstances of life, and then we trust him, and he blesses us with the strength to go through it, and we do go through it, and we pass the test, God has a reward. And James tells us it's the crown of life. Now there's dispute over what this is. Some people say it's a special crown we get when we get to heaven. Other people take it a different way.
And the Greek could be taken to mean the crown which is life, meaning some special quality of earthly life that God gives us, that God blesses us with a crown which is earthly life of a special blessed nature. Can you tell for sure which one it is? No. I don't know exactly what it is, but I know this. Whatever it is, I want it. When God offers a reward, my friend, I don't care if I can define it, or assay it, or understand it. If God's offering it, I want it. Whatever it may be, God says there is this reward. And if you will persevere under your trials and let God bless your life and give you strength, you will be rewarded.
You know, a lot of people have problems with this. A lot of people say, well, I mean, is God dealing with us here? Is God bickering back and forth?
No. But God is a good motivator of people. God knows what motivates, and He knows what motivates people, His reward. Remember He made us, and He made us that way. And so God hangs His reward, His caret out in the proper sense of the word and says, here it is, if you want it, it's yours, if you'll do it my way. And I don't know about you, but I want it.
I don't even know what it is, but whatever it is, I want it, and I'm going to do as best I can what God says I have to do to get it. Reward. Reason number one, why should we hang in? Because God says there's reward for staying tough.
But He gives us a second reason and a much longer reason. And it's simply this, that the reason you're having trials is because of you, not God. That many of our trials and temptations come because of who we are. And that it becomes our responsibility to resist temptation. It becomes our responsibility to fight temptation in our lives because the temptation is coming from us many times.
Let me explain what I mean. God brings out two very important points here. The first is His relationship to evil. James says, let no man say when He is tempted, and this means to sin.
We're not talking about a trial, a flat tire, a tree falls on your house. Okay, we're talking about when you are nose to nose with sin, with the temptation to sin, and it's pulling on you. James says God doesn't send those, or God may send trials, but He doesn't send those because God cannot be tempted by evil and He does not want to tempt anyone else by it.
How then does it come? Well, James tells us that each one is tempted, verse 14, when He's carried away and enticed by His own lust. You see, if there were no problem in us, if there were no flaw in us, if there was no sin nature in us, then sin would be no problem. There's a flaw in our nature that makes us susceptible to these temptations. Who sends them our way?
Well, sometimes they just come because of the way we are, and sometimes I'm convinced Satan and his cohorts get involved. I want you to keep a finger in James 1 and flip back in the Old Testament to the book of Job. To the book of Job. Job chapter 1, if you would, with me, and I want us to see this truth in action in the Old Testament. Job chapter 1. Job chapter 1. I know the story, I think, verse 1, there was a man in the land of us whose name was Job, and he was blameless, upright, fearing God, turning away from evil. Are we dealing with a believer? Yes, we are. This is Old Testament language for believer.
What happens? Well, we see that in verse 6. Now, there was a day when the sons of God, here meaning angels, came to present themselves before the Lord. Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, from where do you come? And Satan said from walking or roaming about on the earth and walking around on it. And the Lord said to Satan, have you considered my servant Job, for is no one like him on earth? A blameless and upright man, fearing God, turning away from evil. And Satan answered the Lord and said, does Job fear God for no reason?
He has a good reason. You've made a hedge about him, verse 10. You've protected him.
I haven't been able to get to him. But Satan challenges God, verse 11, put forth your hand, touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face. And the Lord said to Satan, behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him. So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
And you know the story. He went, knocked down Job's house, killed all his sons, killed all his garters, killed all his livestock, wiped him out, wiped out his possessions. But Job didn't curse our Lord. So Satan comes back in chapter two, and we're not going to read that, but the conversation goes very similarly. And this time, Satan says, oh, skin for skin, everything a man has he'll give for his skin. Let me touch his skin. Now why didn't Satan touch his skin the first time?
Ah, this is what I want you to catch. Because God said, you can't lay your hand on him. So Satan comes back. He says, let me work on him. And God says to him, you may work on him, but you may not kill him.
You know what Satan does? He gives Job's boy, Job boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his foot. Job goes out and sits on a dung heap and scrapes the tops of these sores off with a piece of broken pottery. And his wife, Mrs. Job, comes out and says, why don't you just curse God and die? Real encouragement, real encouragement, real ministry of affirmation.
Oh, but Job hung in. Now what do we see from this? Why did I ask you to turn here? Because here we see the truth of James 1 in action. Would you notice that God did not tempt Job to sin? He did not do it. Satan did it. God allowed it, but he never did it. He might say, well, what's the difference?
Ah, big difference. Because God set the limits on the temptation. God set the limits on the temptation. He said in the first case, you can't touch him.
And in the second case, you can't kill him. And would you notice in both cases, Job was protected by God's limits. That's why God can make the promise in 1 Corinthians 10.13, no temptation has overtaken you. But that which is common to man and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you're able. How can God make that promise? There is no way God could make that promise to a believer unless he inspects and sets the limits on everything, including Satan's activity in the life of a believer.
It's the only way he could make that promise. And so even though God may allow temptations to sin, to come into our life, either just because of our flesh or because of Satan himself, God still has control. God still makes sure it doesn't exceed our ability and God still can give the strength to overcome. Dwight L. Moody said, when Christians find themselves exposed to temptation, they should not be discouraged. It is not a sin to be tempted, it is sin to give way to the temptation.
That's true. Was it sin for Job to be tempted? Satan's motive was clearly to tempt this man to sin. Was that sin? The temptation, no. And when we're tempted to sin, we need to remember that's not sin, it's our reaction to it that might be.
And I've met so many believers who feel so guilty because they're being tempted. My friends, that's the normal routine for the Christian life. That's normal. Don't worry about that. Worry about how you respond to that. And not only this, not only does God have the parameters, not only is this the truth that we need to face here, but a second truth, under the heading, it's our responsibility to resist sin, is again our old diagram, and that is that we need to remember.
And for those of you who may be incredibly interested, I was going to show this this morning. People ask, were you going to use the overhead? Yes. Did you just decide not to use it because of time? No. What actually happened is when I flipped the switch, I got no electricity.
Someone, and I don't know who, had disconnected me. So here's what you were going to see this morning, and I trust it'll be applicable. We need again to remember that we have a dual nature as believers. That is why James says that temptations to sin do not come from God.
They come from our old nature which stays with us, so that even though we may be in Christ positionally, we still have the old nature and can sin just like we did before we were in Christ. This is our problem. We have a tug of war, as we've discussed before. So this is our situation. Our second reason that we need to resist is because the flaw is in us. Where there are not this old nature, there would be no problem.
And it becomes our responsibility to resist. I've had so many young Christians and older Christians come to me and say, you know something, before I was a believer, I never had any real problems. I just did what life was all going.
Everything was so simple. And now that I'm a Christian, wow, every decision is like a major ordeal. I mean, it's like my whole body is being torn apart. That's right. That's right.
Because the old nature is pulling and so is God. I spoke at a camp one time and we played tug of war. Now, I hadn't done that, I don't think, in recent memory. And on both sides, we got people that weighed close to 300, you know, and they wrapped the rope around their waist and then everybody got on it. And in the middle was a mud puddle about two, two and a half feet deep and loaded with slop. I mean loaded.
So here we go. And since I was the speaker, they thought it would be appropriate that I be in the front of the rope on one side. Now you wrap the rope around your arms so you can get a better grip. But the only problem is once it's wrapped around your arm, as the mud gets closer, you can't let go. And so here we are, we're pulling this way and they're pulling that way and back and forth and little by little, here came the mud. I saw it and we moved towards it.
But you know, there's a certain amount of momentum in tug of war that once you get the other team leaning, one good yank does it. And so here we are and I'm on the front and they yanked and flopped right in the mud. That's six of us. I lie not.
I almost, I almost died because I was under the bottom about five people in about two feet of mud and I couldn't breathe. And I'm trying to get, and they got the biggest people in camp on this tug of war. I mean, you know, there were no shrimps on this tug of war, incredible. But God taught me something. And that is very simply the strong side winds.
And I'd say, that's an incredible revelation. If you didn't know that before God taught it to you, you are incredibly dumb. Oh, well, maybe I am, but I learned that the strong side winds and you know something in the tug of war going on in your life, the strong side will win. And it all depends which side you allow to become stronger. It all depends which side will win.
Now I've had people say to me when I share that, that doesn't make any sense. I mean, the spirit of God's in our life, the Holy Spirit lives in our life. Isn't he strong enough to win? Yes, he is. Well, then why can he lose?
Because there's a complicating factor named you. You see, I have a lot of electricity outside of my house on the telephone pole. I don't know how much, but I'm sure it's plenty.
I'm sure it's enough. I could pretty much blow my house up if I could take it all inside. Plenty of electricity out there, yeah. Can I take it immediately into my house?
No. Why not? Because the amount of electricity that can actually come from that unlimited supply into my home depends on the capacity of the wire connecting my home with that source. And if that capacity is 110, then I can take 110 into my house and no more. If it's 220, I can take 220 in, or 440, I can take 440 in, but that's it. Now explain to me why we understand that with electricity and not with spiritual reality.
What I'm trying to say is simply this. The Holy Spirit is infinitely capable, but His ability to convey that capability into our lives depends on our capacity to receive it. And if we're 110 lines, then that's what we get. But oh, praise God, if we can make ourselves 220 lines, that's what we'll get.
Or if we can make ourselves 440 lines, then that's what we'll get. And so there is a sense in which our cooperation with God determines how much power we get. And the more we cooperate, the more we yield to Him, the more we open up our capacity and say, Lord, Your strength, I'm at Your availability, I'm yielded to You. Oh, open it wide, because the bigger capacity you give our Lord, the more current you'll get. Is the Lord capable?
Sure He is. Problems not the Lord. Problems us. And when we throw our weight on the side of that tug of war called the flesh, we lose. We lose. So our responsibility becomes to cooperate with God and pull the flesh in the mud, not the other way around. How do we do it? How do we increase our capacity? I hope you're not waiting for some profound, enlightening, brand new answer.
You know the answer. The basics. The Word of God. If you want to increase your capacity, then 1 Peter 2, 2 says, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you might grow thereby.
You need to read this book. How else do we increase our capacity to resist temptation and tap God's power, prayer? Jesus told them a parable that they should pray at all times and not cave in, lose heart, faint.
In fellowship, Hebrews chapter 10, consider how to stimulate one another to spiritual living. And if we're not doing these basic things, we might as well be throwing our weight on the side of the flesh in this tug of war. And you see, my friends, the reason the tug of war loses, the reason the Spirit of God loses so often is because we are pulling on the other side. Maybe not consciously, but that doesn't matter.
If you're not pulling with Him, believe me, you are not developing the capacity to let Him give you the victory. And so our second reason is not only is there reward, but that it's our responsibility to resist because the flaw is in us, not in God. And that God has given us the wherewithal to resist and that we need to cooperate with God and do it. We don't speak of the word responsibility enough in the Christian life. We speak of feeling. We speak of attitude.
We speak of opinion. But the Christian life has responsibility, and one of them is to live in obedience to this book. It's a responsibility for which I may remind you God will hold you accountable.
It's your responsibility. Third and quickly, verse 15, then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. A third reason for resisting sin is that there are consequences when we don't resist it.
There are consequences when we don't. Now we all know that those of us who don't know Jesus Christ, people in the world who don't know Jesus Christ, that they're giving into their sin is leading to death. But you know what we don't think about very often is that believers can contribute to God taking their life by yielding to sin. When we study 1 Corinthians 11, we are going to come upon a very sobering passage which says this, because of this, meaning because of their disobedience to God, some of you are weak and some of you are sick and some of you have already fallen asleep. Paul means they've died.
Now in case you didn't get the point, let me restate it. God has sometimes in the past and still does in the present take the earthly life of a believer when he consistently disobeys. That's frightening, but it happens.
Just as God promises reward when we obey, oh God's a good motivator, He promises consequences when we disobey, and not only physical death, but corruption, deadness to God, corruption in our earthly lives. I ministered to a girl years ago in Maryland. I met her as a roommate of another girl we had led to Christ. Come to find out that this girl came from a very, very good Christian home, had ministered for several years as a waitress in a dining hall of one of the foremost Christian camping ministries in the entire United States.
If I named it, you would all know it. And here she was living in an apartment with her boyfriend living with her and pushing dope out of the apartment. We went there to see her roommate, who by the way moved out fairly soon after she came to know Christ, and I sat there talking to this other girl, the roommate, the one who was living with this fellow and had been to this Christian camp, and she began to tell me all this.
You know, I was two years a waitress here and my mom goes, and my parents and my brother is a pal, and I'm going, I don't believe this. And as I got to know her better, one day she came to Sunday school class and she said to me after class, she said, you know something, she said the last year of my life has been the most miserable year I have ever spent. And that would have been a good time to back off and go, oh, I'm sure it wasn't that bad.
Oh, but I had her now. And I said, you know something, if you don't begin obeying God, it's going to get worse. Great encouragement, huh?
She probably went, thanks a lot, oh, but it's true. Because God may take your life if you continually disobey, but in the meantime, on the way there, He will give you a quality of earthly life that will be miserable on the way. And there is nothing more miserable than a Christian in disobedience to our Lord.
There is no more miserable creature than that. And so why should we resist sin? Not only because God gives reward, not only because it's our responsibility, but third, because of the consequences, the, shall we say, corruption of your earthly life and even possible taking of that life if you don't, but fourth and last, verse 18, in the exercise of His will, He brought us forth by the word of truth so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures.
The fourth reason to resist is in light of God's purposes in saving you, in light of God's purpose in saving you. You see, my friends were told here that God saved us to be a first fruits of His creation. The first fruits in Israel was the first part of the crop. When you harvested the crop, the first part you brought in, the best part of the crop was dedicated to our Lord.
He always got the first fruit. In fact, there was a holiday that centered around the bringing of the first fruits and dedicating them to our Lord. And so the first fruits are the best of the crops, set apart for God. And God is saying here that He saved us to live Godly lives. He saved us to be set apart to Him, not to give into the world, not to crumble under the load, not to sin, but to shine for Him, to be first fruits of His creation. God didn't save us for defeat, He saved us for victory.
And in light of this fact, in light of the fact this is what God wants to do with our lives, if we'll cooperate with Him, believe me, He will get us here. Why should we resist four simple reasons? Number one, because there's blessing when we do. Number two, because it's our responsibility. Number three, because there are consequences when we don't.
And number four, because that is God's plan, that is God's purpose for saving you, not just to take you to heaven, but to get you to live an exemplary life that through you, He can reach others. Now I don't know how many of you jog. I've been doing a fair bit lately. And jogging or any sort of athletic competition always goes the same.
It's always a fight to the finish with the flesh, always. I get out there and when I feel great, I'm limbering up and doing my exercises and Jamie even gets out there and tries to do his stretching exercises with me, puts a sweatband on, and I jog him about one house up and one house back and he's done his jogging, so I take off. Oh, and I'm running along, I get about, oh, maybe two houses down the road, breathing deep.
I get around four houses down the road, really breathing deep, all right, around the corner. I've only done about a tenth of a mile, that's about it. You might think, man, you're starting a second mile, I've done a tenth. No legs start getting a little achy, now it's all right, got to keep going. Breast starts coming a little short, it's okay, got to keep going, two tenths of a mile. I'm looking more like this, the lungs start hurting, my head starts throbbing, the knees start aching, and I'm doing about two miles.
This is what happens at three tenths of the first one. And you know there has never been a day that I have gone out to jog, that getting to the three tenths of a mile point, I haven't said to myself, why don't I quit for today, I'll pick this up tomorrow. It always happens, I'm always thinking, maybe I should stop, my legs are a little sore, the concrete's probably tearing my cartilage up, you know, I got all these reasons.
People die jogging, Lon, especially when they're breathing like you are. And then I keep going, oh I just keep going, and I fight that flesh every single step. Every step hurts, but I keep on going, and every step hurts more, I keep on going. And when I finish, oh man, I feel great, feel great. And athletic competition is much like the Christian life, because you can never excel, in fact you can never even perform, much less excel, without the flesh resisting.
Lift some weights, do a little jogging, play some ball, you'll see. And it's interesting that so many times the Christian life is compared to athletic competition. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says, nobody wins in the athletic game, unless they discipline the flesh, unless they resist, unless they have self-discipline, they can't win.
And he says in 2 Timothy, no man qualifies for the prize, unless he denies the flesh. Couple years ago they had a special on TV of people preparing for the Olympics, and I sat there in utter amazement of these people. They'd get up early in the morning, jog 8, 10, 12 miles, go to work, come home, swim, 2, 3, 4 miles, swim, I mean I mean run, I mean swim, that far, then no dinner to keep their weight down, more jogging, then weightlifting, then the next day, another routine, and these people do this for 2 and 3 and 4 years to get ready, and then they still don't know if they'll win.
And I thought, wow, I can't believe that they just give up all the comforts of life. These people don't watch television, these people don't eat milkshakes, these people don't satisfy the natural cravings that I'm sure they have, because we all have them. But they discipline themselves, and they fight the flesh, it's a war for them, a war that they have determined they're going to win, because they plan to excel.
And you know something? They don't even have the Spirit of God, most of them, and yet it's incredible the way they can overcome the desires of this body. I think our problem is we don't want to win bad enough. We have the Spirit of God saying to us, you've got all the strength you need, open your capacity up, let me pour it in.
You don't have to be subject to the flesh, you don't have to be, it's captive, here's all that you need. But the problem is we don't want to win badly enough. We don't want to excel. We're very happy to limp into heaven in last place. But for those of us who want to get there, stretching for the tape, oh, won't that be nice? God says I've got all that you need. You resist, trust me, and you'll have what you need. I trust you'll take this message to heart, nothing complicated, nothing especially profound, just basic Christian truth.
That temptation is normal, that it comes because we have a flaw, that God sends it to produce maturity and endurance in our lives, that He'll give wisdom and He'll give strength and He has reward for those who will endure. And I hope you'll get tough. I hope you'll learn to see this as a war that we're in to win, not to lose, and that you'll get tough, and plan to win, plan to excel, and trust our Lord for the strength.
Let's have prayer. Dear Lord, how we need to be reminded of these truths this evening. How easy it is for us, Lord, and I myself am so guilty of this, how easy it is for us to simply lapse into mediocrity, and being comfortable, and forgetting that we're in a fight, that the fight never stops. And that we need to resist because it's our responsibility, because of the reward, because of the consequences of not doing it, and because it's your purpose for us. So Lord, encourage our hearts, make us tough, make us determined, make us dedicated to victory, and help us trust You forward in each of our lives. We pray in Christ's name, Amen.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-09 12:07:52 / 2022-11-09 12:15:47 / 8