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James #2 - chapter 1, verses 13-17
Authentic Faith
The Test of Blame in Temptation
James 1:13-17
 
I want to begin by reading our text from
 
James 1:13-17
 
As we begin, look at verse 14.  If you are using KJV, it says, “But every man is temped.”  All of us can say “amen” to that.  Temptation is the common experience of every human being, non-Christian or Christian. 
 
We all face the battle of temptation and how we deal with it reveals whether or not we are saved.  Did you know that?  Just as how we face trials and respond to them in verses 2-12 was seen as a test of genuine faith, how we deal with temptation is also a test of genuine faith.
 
It is normal for unredeemed people not to accept the blame for their own sinfulness.  When they are tempted and fall into sin, it is typical for them to put the blame somewhere else.  Children come into the world refusing to take responsibility for their behavior. 
 
The first time you reprimand your little darling for something, their initial, knee jerk response is to say, “I didn’t do it.  It wasn’t my fault.”
 
And when we get grown, it doesn’t change much because nobody likes to take responsibility for our mess-ups.
And in this passage, James is saying, how you respond to temptation and where you put the blame is either an indicator of the genuineness of your salvation or a the lack of it. 
 
Now there is a very rapid change that comes between verses 12 and 13.  He has been talking about how trials are allowed to come into our life by the Lord to make us strong.  And he has just said that the person who endures those trials is blessed. 
 
Trials test our faith and if we are saved, they produce spiritual growth.  But the same trials can also become temptations.  And rather than being a means to spiritual growth, they move us toward evil.   Did you catch that?  Every difficult thing that comes into my life either strengthens me because I obey God and stay confident in his care and trusting his power and as a result I grow or I am tempted to doubt God, deny his word, disobey, do what is expedient and wind up doing evil rather than growing. 
 
In fact, the same word that means an enticement to evil is also used to speak of a trial.  The difference is how you respond to it.  If you respond to a trial with obedience, then you find it a means of spiritual growth.  If you respond to a trial with disobedience, it has turned to a temptation and you have fallen prey to it. 
 
So James makes this shift from trials, which lead to growth and blessing to temptations, which lead to sin and death. 
 
 
That means every trial has the potential to become a temptation depending on our response.  And it means every trial requires that we make a decision about how we will respond.  Will I move ahead in faith in God by obedience to God’s Word or will I listen to the voice that suggests the easy way out is disobedience and fall into sin?
 
Now, if I fall into sin, whose fault is it?  Is it God’s fault for allowing the trials and bringing them into my path?  Is it the fault of my circumstances?  Maybe it’s God’s fault because He created me the way I am and I can’t help it.    
 
How we answer that question is important enough that James places it at the very heart of this passage.  By the way, that discussion is not new.  In fact, it is as old as sin itself as we see in Genesis 3 and Adam and Eve being confronted by God and Eve blames the serpent and Adam blames the woman and ultimately God. 
 
Now listen:  It is a terrible thing to blame God for your sin.  But that is the tendency of fallen flesh.  We want to avoid responsibility for our behavior and we will even go so far as to blame God.
 
So that’s how James begin his discussion about the Test of Blame in Temptation. 
 
verse 13
 
The idea is this:  When you are in the heat of the battle, in the process of being tempted, you aren’t allowed to take yourself off the hook, by saying, “God is doing this to me.”
When you are nearing the brink of yielding to your temptation, don’t try to make excuses for your lake of will power by blaming God for the temptation. 
 
Notice how James puts quotations around that phrase as if it were a quote from a person in that very situation.  And in that quote we find a very interesting little word.  It is the word translated “of” in the KJV.  It is “by” in newer translations. 
 
In the English, there is only one way to translate the little word “of” but in the Greek there are two words that can be translated “of”. One is “A-p-o” and the the other is “u-p-o”.  And while they are very similar in spelling, they are distant in meaning. 
 
A-p-o means remote and speaks of being at a distance such as an indirect relationship.  U-p-o means “direct” and refers to the who actually doing something. 
 
The one used here in James is the first one and what he is saying is when you’re tempted, you shouldn’t say “God is behind this”.    It’s pretty rare to find the person who directly blames God and James doesn’t even address that. 
 
But it’s not uncommon at all to do what Adam did.  Well God, I was happy until you brought that woman into my life.  And we’d still be getting along fine if you hadn’t made her. 
 
See, it was an indirect indictment of God.  James says, “Don’t say that.”  God is to blame, even ina distant, indirect way. 
 
 
Then to support that statement, James gives us five proofs in the verses that follow that God is not responsible for temptation.  At the same time, he is presenting the evidence of what he says in verse 14. 
 
If you give in to temptation and you’ve committed sin and the same evidence that clears God indicts you. 
 
First he talks about   
 
1.  The Nature of Evil
 
Verse 13
 
Our God is inexperienced in evil.  He has no capacity for evil.  He has no vulnerability to evil.  All evil repulses God.  It can find no place in his holy character so the nature of evil is infinitely apart from the holiness of God.  And what James is telling us is the nature of evil sets it apart from God.  God is in a different class. 
 
Satan would love to bring God down but God has no vulnerability to evil.  because the nature of evil is totally foreign to his nature.  What did Habakkuk say in verse 13 of chapter 1? 
 
Thou art of purer eyes than to even behold evil and cannot look on iniquity.  Too pure to behold evil.  Too pure to look on iniquity.  God is a holy God.  The nature of evil then makes it impossible for God to ever be tempted successfully or to ever tempt someone else, for to tempt someone else would indicate that he had a delight in seeing someone else do evil, but he who knows no evil cannot delight in evil.
So the evil, James says, tells us that God cannot be the source of temptation and sin for evil is contradictory to his nature.
 
Next we find
 
2.  The Nature of Man
 
verse 14
 
Notice the first word.  We are introduced to a contrast between God and man and every man in included.   No one is exempted.   Temptation doesn’t come from God, but every man, each one of us, no exceptions, all individuals, are tempted.   In fact, they drawn away and enticed. 
 
Here we find the nature of our temptation.  We are drawn away and enticed.  The first phrase comes from hunting and it is used of luring an animal into a trap.  A trap is baited and the animal is lured into the trap. 
 
The second term is a fishing term that means to capture or catch and its literal use was to catch a fish with bait. 
 
Now think about that imagery.  The reason animals get trapped and fish are hooked is because the bait looks good.  It looks attractive.  It looks inviting and all they see is the bait.  And instead of the anticipated pleasure, they wind up trapped and hooked.  That’s the way temptation works. 
 
So whose fault is that?  What pulls us so strongly to the bait?  Is it God?  No.  Is it Satan? 
Satan may bait the hook.  But what pulls us to the trap, in a word is our lust or desires and that is nature of man.  And notice it is not disrfes or lust by itself.  It is “our own desires”.  It is very emphatic.  Very specific. 
 
We are not talking about some generic term affects everyone in the same way.  What we find here is that everyone possess commonly with everyone else that each individual has his own particular bent of lust and that thing in particular is what lure him to the bait. 
 
We don’t need Satan.  We don’t need demons.  We don’t even need the world.  All we need is our own desires.   God is not responsible for our sin.  The nature of evil tells us and the nature of man tells us where the problem is.  It’s in us.  And just to expand that thought, thirdly, James deals with
 
3.  The Nature of Desire
 
verses 15 - 16
 
James now shifts the picture away from hunting and fishing to childbirth.
 
He pictures our desires as a mother conceiving and bringing forth a child and the child is sin and when the child grows up it produces death. 
 
Now this is extremely important.  Most people think of sin as a solitary act or a series of acts or behaviors.  But God says through James that sin is not an act.  Sin is the result of a process. 
 
That process starts with
  • Desire
 
Desire is related to emotion.  It begins with a feeling of wanting to be satisfied or wanting to acquire something to satisfy you.  You saw it on a commercial or at the jewelry store or in the in the car lot or at the mall or whatever it affected you emotionally.  It makes you feel a longing.  That’s where it all starts.  Sin begins with a desire.
 
The second step is
 
  • Deception
 
Now if the desire is attached to our emotions, the deception is related to the mind.  You begin to justify and rationalize the right that you have for that which you desire.  That’s what we see in verse 14.  We are drawn away and enticed. 
 
The hook is baited, the trap is set and it affects the ability to reason.  It deceives the intellect.  The intellect looks and says, I have a right to that.  That looks good.  That will satisfy me.  That will meet my need.  That will quench my desire.
 
And so what starts with desire in the emotion moves to deception in the mind.  So then what happens?   Notice what verse 15 says.  Desire conceives.  Let’s call that
 
  • Design
 
Now the plan begins to come together and that occurs in the will.  You have gone from the emotions to the mind to the will as the action begins to satisfy the desire.
By the way, the word conceived literally means to become pregnant.  The design is conceived, if you will, in the womb of a person’s soul.  Emotion drives the mind to put the will in action.  That leads to the fourth step which is
 
  • Disobedience
 
The act occurs.  The baby of sin is born and hits the ground running! See, any child is born of the same process.  That’s the sequence.  The four steps that lead to sin are desire, deception, design and disobedience. 
 
It begins with the emotions, moves to the mind which prompts the will to act.  Now let’s make that real practical.  At what point do we most effectively deal with sin? 
 
Most people think it is in our behavior.  We need to change our behavior and stop doing this or that or the other.  But the only effective way to change our behavior is is effect change at the point of desire. 
 
It is the person who is able to control their emotional responses that is going to deal effectively with sin.  At the very latest, we must bring our thoughts into control when it gets from the emotions to the mind.
 
If it makes it to the will and something is conceived, it will be born.  A child conceived is a child born.  That child has got to come out.
 
 
 
 
If we will effectively deal with sin in our lives, we’ve got to go way back to the beginning and control our emotions and mind because that’s where the thing gets started.
 
That’s why James says in verse 16, stop fooling yourselves!  Don’t be deceived!  Know where the trouble begins.  Stop blaming God and start blaming yourself.
 
So God could never tempt us to sin because of the nature of evil, the nature of man and the nature of lust.  Then, in verse 17, we see
 
4.   The Nature of God
 
Verse 17
 
Here is the heart of the text.  No one can blame God for sin because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.  The only things that come down from God are good.  That speaks to the nature of God.  The nature of God is such that it only produces good.
 
Two things to see there: 
 
First, on the negative side, this God could never produce sin.  On the positive side, God is going to pour out good and only good in your life. 
 
So if that is true, and the nature of God testifies that it is, why would you want to go after the baited hooks and traps of the world when you could have what God has to offer?  God gives us every good and perfect gift.
 
Every act of giving and every gift God gives is good and perfect.  Good means good, there is no comparative for it.  It isn’t good, gooder, goodest, it’s just good.  It’s complete.  It lacks nothing. It’s all sufficient.  It’s perfect.  Comprehensive. 
 
How foolish to grab the world’s substitutes!  How stupid to climb into the trap when every good and perfect gift is coming down from God to us.
 
And notice, He is called the father of lights.  That was an ancient Jewish way of referring to God as creator.  The lights they have in mind are the sun, moon and the stars.  He is the father of the lights. The celestial bodies.  So why use that description? 
 
Because, it fits his illustration.  He is the father of lights, but with him there is no variation and no shifting shadow.  He is the one who created all the stellar bodies, but he’s not like them.  They vary.  They change.  They dim.  They brighten.  They bring light.  They cast shadow.  There are here in the daytime and gone at night.  They’re here at night and gone in the daytime.  Their benefit to us comes and goes. 
 
God isn’t like that.  God’s brilliant bright light of glory and light of goodness and light of grace is no varying thing.  He doesn’t change from one condition to another.  It doesn’t have shadows.  It never goes dark.  1 John 1:5, in him is no darkness at all.” 
 
Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I change not.”  There are no days when he stops giving spiritual gifts. There are no days when he stops giving spiritual light. The flow of good things from God never varies and never stops. 
God gives all good and only good and He never stops giving.  So who is responsible for sin?  You are, and James offers one final proof and I’ll just mention I and then next time we meet we’ll develop it more. 
 
The final proof is
 
5.  The Nature of Regeneration
 
verse 18
 
Here’s the argument:  God couldn’t have tempted us to sin because God doesn’t want us to sin because God wants us to be like Him.  That is the very nature of regeneration. 
 
He gave us new life.  And whereas lust brings forth death, God brings forth life.  God doesn’t tempt us to do evil; just the opposite, He recreates us to do good.  So who is to blame for your sin?  You better know because you got to deal with it.
 
Augustine, the great saint of God, had lived with a prostitute before his conversion.  After he was saved, he was walking down the street one day and this prostitute saw him.  She shouted his name and he kept walking.  He saw her, but kept his eyes straightforward and walked.
 
She continued crying after him and ran after him.  And finally, she said, “Augustine, it is I.”  To which he replied, “I know, but it is no longer I.”
God has saved us to change us and make us into a brand new creation.  He’s too good to do anything but bring about good in our lives. 
 
Let’s pray. 
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