JD Rodgers | 2021-03-30
Temptation convinces you that sin will be fun in the moment, but it never ends where it begins. What if there were a way we could fight it and say no to temptation? In this message, we study James 1:12-18 to learn where temptation comes from, where it leads to, and how to defeat it before it defeats us.
Temptation convinces you that sin will be fun in the moment, but it never ends where it begins. What if there were a way we could fight it and say no to temptation? In this message, we study James 1:12-18 to learn where temptation comes from, where it leads to, and how to defeat it before it defeats us.
How are we doing, Porch? Week two of our James series as we are looking at the book of James, going verse by verse, studying through a book of the Bible together. Last week, we talked all about trials and how God uses trials to test our faith, to create more maturity in the believer to depend on him more. Tonight, we're hopping into temptation.
Before we do that, a quick welcome to some really important friends tuning in with us live. I want to say "What's up?" to our Porch.Live Cincinnati and Porch.Live Tulsa, and friends in the room, help us welcome for the very first time a new Porch.Live location: Porch Des Moines, Iowa. I love it. Two Porch.Live locations in Iowa. It's just crazy. Who knew? Of course, also my friends here tonight in Dallas. What's up? So glad we're here.
I just want to say right off the bat I have been talking really weird today. I have no idea what's about to come out of this mouth. Moses had a stutter. God used him pretty well, so we'll see what happens. Before we get going any farther, we are committed to taking you guys verse by verse through this, so I just want to start off by reading the text we're going to study tonight. So, if you would, open up your Word to James, chapter 1.
Like I said, last week, trials and testing of our faith, how God puts testing moments in our lives, and God does that for a greater purpose: to bring us to him in our suffering. But tonight, we're talking about the idea of temptation, something given to us not by God. Testing is used to develop us, but temptation is used to defeat us. The source of our temptation is not God. It's something else, and that's what we're going to learn tonight from the book of James. James, chapter 1, verse 13. Let's read.
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."
There's a lot there, but tonight we're tackling temptation. It is really important that you track with me tonight. If you have questions, just raise your hand. (I'm just kidding.) Temptation is really important to cover. When I was thinking about the process of learning about how to fight temptation, I was thinking about our spiritual journey as followers of Jesus. A lot of times, the correlation between one's spiritual journey aligns with the correlation of one's physical journey.
There are a lot of times in the Bible where our physical journey and how we train our bodies and treat our bodies and use our bodies for the glory of God and for health and fitness, and different things, can be correlated in a lot of ways to our spiritual journey. For me, like a lot of us, I find myself… You know, 2021. This was my year to get fit. I was like, "Okay. This is my year. I'm going to start a physical journey, and I'm going to have that summer bod," like we all want. It's coming up quicker than I thought. Working out, you know, and all of those different things.
People who are really in the gym a lot, like the CrossFit fanatics… They're like, "But, you know, 80 percent of getting fit is in the kitchen." I'm like, "Oh! No, not for me. Not for this guy. That's not true. I can get it all up in the gym just working on my fitness, he's my witness." After time, working out double hard… I'm like, "I'll work out double hard in the gym so that way I don't have to do the whole kitchen thing, the dieting thing." It didn't work, and I was like, "Dadgummit! I've got to start the diet. I've got to be a disciplined person and cut a lot of things in my life."
In my physical journey, destination summer bod over there, I'm walking, working out, denying different candies and snacks at parties and gatherings, and then there's this one thing that, every single time, tends to get me off track. It's these: chocolate chip cookies, my favorite dessert. I don't need pie. I don't need cake. I don't need anything else. I just need me a good chocolate chip cookie. As I'm on my journey of dieting, and all of those different things, our sweet coworker Ramsey Pittman over here brings things like this into the office.
Here's what temptation in my physical journey tends to look like. I tend to do one of these. I'm looking at it. I'm like, "What up, girl?" Because these cookies are not just any cookies. They have the perfect sea salt on top, not too chocolatey. You know what I'm talking about? The perfect combination of batter and chocolate chips. When you bite it, it's not too gooey, not too crunchy. It's just the perfect sweet spot. She has it down to a T. (Fellows, these cookies could be yours every week by asking Ramsey Pittman out on a date. Just kidding. But really, you could. She's an amazing girl.)
I look at these cookies, and I'm like, "Not today." But then I start to think about it, and I'm like, "Oh, just one." We all know one cookie is never enough. Maybe one more. Maybe another after dinner if I'm feeling a little something. I find myself caving every now and then. After a few cookies, because I've been trying not to eat sweets, even though I have a major sweet tooth, I find myself sick because I gave in.
I start there because I think, a lot of times, temptation can look the same. It's not cookies, but in our spiritual journey, we have a destination to look more like God, to do more things for the Lord, to be honoring and use our lives to steward for the glory of God and to live for him. Like how I'm walking toward my destination and these cookies seem to always get me off track, in the same way, sin wants to get me off track from my pursuit of God, and that begins in the form of temptation.
So, before we go any farther on what James has to say about temptation, I want to define it really clearly for us. Here is a definition of temptation: temptation is the moment when you mentally acknowledge the option to choose sin or to choose God. One more time. It's really important you understand this. Temptation is the moment when you mentally acknowledge the option to choose sin or to choose God.
It's the moment when you are weighing the implications of "Do I go after what the world is calling out for me to do, what sin, my flesh, what Satan is calling for me to do, or do I choose to trust God with the results of my life?" It's when you find yourself at the crossroad of choosing yourself to be lord of your own life or choosing God.
In that crossroad, a lot of us talk about what it looks like to be in an abiding relationship with God, and a lot of us talk about how you go back to God after your sin, but I think, a lot of times, the reason a lot of us go back to our sin is because we don't talk about this fork in the road that's called temptation. We talk about what it looks like to come to God after we sin, but what if there was something we could be trained on tonight that helps us to say no to sin and come to God without having to go through all that unnecessary pain?
Here's the reality. For a lot of you tonight, your parents never learned about temptation, and because of that, they chose to indulge in sin and not to abide with God, and you're still experiencing the repercussions and consequences of their actions, because they never understood temptation. A lot of you have found yourself… I mean, me too. I'm new to this whole sermon prep thing and taking three verses and diving deep.
As I'm learning more about temptation, I'm like, "Everyone is tempted. We're all tempted. I'm tempted all the time. We're all sinning. Everyone is a sinner. What's wrong with us? We're all being deceived!" And I'm freaking out. I'm like, "Wait. Okay. That's not new. I knew we were all sinners." I think a lot of us don't talk about temptation enough. We talk about the don'ts and the sins, but what if we could get out ahead of it?
Tonight, when you're tempted to gossip, when you're going through that temptation to buy those shoes even though you're in credit card debt (been there), when you're tempted to have that one night stand or when you're tempted to look at porn, when you're tempted to scroll on Instagram on that one girl's account and let jealousy fester in you, when you're tempted to Snapchat that picture that's a little bit too revealing to get a response, when you're tempted to drink that drink when you know it's crossing the line, and you're taking something that was meant for good and turning it into evil… We're talking about that part of your life.
The ability to understand temptation can help one's walk with Christ significantly. Listen. Who you are right now, who I am right now and who I want to be with the Lord, who you want to be one day with the Lord, which I hope is in a thriving relationship with him… In between that, who you're going to be one day, is a lot of temptation that can have major consequences on your life. If you don't know how to fight it, you could suffer the consequences in your 30s and your 40s and your 50s.
You think giving into it right now and feeding your sin a little bit here and there in your 20s is kind of what your 20s are all about, and it is impacting your future and the futures of people behind you and the people all around you. That's why James takes a moment tonight to talk about and inform us how to fight temptation to the believer. He's going to do that, and tonight we're going to talk to you about where temptation comes from, what temptation leads to, and how temptation is defeated.
- Where temptation comes from. That's the reality. Every day, there's this thing we talk about when being a Christian that you have entered into a war, light versus darkness, angels versus demons, God versus Satan. You're in the light now, and there's a raging war around you. We use that terminology about being in a spiritual war, but if you don't know where the arrows and the bullets are coming from, you don't know who to fight, and you could be fighting the wrong person.
James really clearly lays out where temptation comes from, starting in verse 13. "When tempted…" When you find yourself at that fork, when you find yourself at that opportunity… Let's say you're at the office and you know some information about a girl and what she did last weekend, and some coworkers start talking about that girl, and you're like, "Right now I could gossip about that girl and talk about her and elevate myself by putting her down."
You're like, "Should these words come out of my mouth? Ooh, it will feel so sweet, because she did that one thing that really ticked me off last week, and I could put her down right now." You find yourself at this opportunity, this temptation to gossip. When that moment comes and moments like that… James would say, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…"
It's like I mentioned earlier. Last week, we talked about how God allows testing through trials in our lives. It can be really easy to confuse testing and tempting. James is making sure you understand very clearly temptation comes from a few sources, but one of them is not God. Testing and tempting are not the same things. Why? Because temptation is an invitation to disobey God, and he wouldn't want that. Temptation is an invitation to follow down a path that pulls you farther and farther away from God.
Last time I checked, a good father does not want to be away from his children. He wants to be near them. Last time I checked, God is perfect. God cannot be in the midst of sin. James is just saying, "Hey, it seems really obvious, but it's quite profound. Your God doesn't make mistakes. If he could make mistakes or if he could sin or if he could be tempted by sin, that makes him an illegitimate God. He's just like everyone else. But he's perfect in every way. That's what makes him a trustworthy Father in every way.
So let me remind you that when you're tempted, do not say, 'God is tempting me,' because, first, God cannot be tempted. God cannot be in the presence of sin, because it would taint his holiness. God is perfect. He cannot be in the presence of sin. Although he is radically in love with the sinner, he hates the sin." Then he goes on to say, "Because God does not tempt anyone." So, he cannot be tempted, nor does he tempt anyone, because he doesn't want anyone to participate in sin, because if you're in sin, then you can't be with him, because he's holy.
So, there's this moment where James is saying God does not want to put sin in front of you and say, "Choose this." That is not God. To think God is the problem behind your temptation is crazy, because God wants to be with you. God is a Father who longs to be with his children. I think a lot of times this looks like… People might not be like, "Yeah. I'm blaming God all the time for temptation. I know it's from Satan or whatever." But I think a lot of us, more than we realize, have blamed God for what we think is our problem.
"Well, God, if you didn't give me these sexual urges, then I wouldn't have Snapchatted her at 2:00 a.m. and asked her to come watch a movie and then just happened to, you know, slip my hand up her shirt, and all these different things. It's because you gave me these desires, God. If you would just get me out of singleness and let me find my wife, my 'wifey for lifey,' then I could be doing sex the right way. Like, you know, God, this is kind of your fault. The point is I'm tired of being single, God. This is you."
That's what we do. We kind of blame God and make him the object of our problem. James is saying God is not the source of your temptation. God might test you. God might bring trials into your life to allow you to be closer to him, but he does not tempt you to sin. He does not want you to partake in sin. So, if it's not God, who is it, James? James would say in verse 14: "…but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed."
I read that, and I'm like, "Wait a second. You mean I'm tempting me?" There's something in me… I go in the mirror and I'm like, "What's wrong with you, man?" I'm reading this, and I'm like, "Man, it's your fault." What does that mean that it's my own desires? If that only results in harm, what is it in me that would lead me to temptation? It's what we talk about here called a sin nature.
Yes, James parks in on the fact that it's you who wants to sin and give in to those evil desires, but in books of the Bible like Ephesians and Colossians and different places throughout the New Testament, and throughout the Bible, honestly, there are often repeated three sources of temptation. Write these down. You want to know where temptation is coming from, so here's where it's coming from.
First, Satan, the Prince of the Air, the Bible would say in Ephesians 2. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy you. He knows sin is the way to do that; therefore, he tempts you to lead you to choose sin and not God. The second one is the world, the system, culture, society. We have chosen our sin time and time again. Taking the world and what God originally designed, we've perverted it in such a way that now the world is constantly sending you things to tempt you.
It says, "Hey, meet your own desires. Give yourself care. Do what you want when you want, and don't let anyone else tell you any different. It's your truth and nothing but your truth. Do you, boo." That's what the world says. The problem with doing you is the third source of temptation: you. You are the problem. James says you are dragged away and lured away and tempted by your own evil desires. Who tempts you? Say, "Me."
It's so true. I don't care if we're in church right now. Can we all be real? There is a reason we sin. Because it's F-U-N. It's fun. There's a reason we think we're supposed to live it up in our 20s. There's a reason we go and hook up time and time again with people, different people on occasion every other week. There are reasons we go out and get drunk and high and live for the high highs and the low lows: because there's something intoxicating about it.
There's something that is so amazing about the way it makes you feel, the endorphins it releases, all of the different things that go on in that. Sin is fun, but we're about to see in the next part of this that sin ultimately does not end where it begins. That's the problem. Yourself, Satan, and the world are giving you something fake. They're making you believe it's worth giving your life to, but it only results in death, which James would say in the second point.
- What temptation leads to. Verse 14: "…but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." I read this, and I was like, "O Lord, I'm about to have to give the whole birds and bees talk thing, the conception and birth and all that." Everyone here knows what conception is. Right? Well, don't assume anything.
When a mom and a dad love each other very much, they make you. So, A plus B equals C. That's conception. That's what you need to know. James is using this illustration here, and it's the perfect illustration to give us an idea into what temptation is and what it leads to. What does temptation lead to? It leads to sin, which ultimately, it says here, when full-grown, leads to death. So, if A plus B equals C, here's what that looks like: you plus choosing evil desire equals sin.
When you get to that fork in the road I've been talking about and you're sitting here… Here's what this looks like. When you're in bed and you've been feeling super lonely lately… Your phone is on your nightstand. You've brushed your teeth and flossed, I hope. (I don't floss.) You're lying in bed, and right before you fall asleep… You're tired, feeling a little more lonely than usual. All of your friends went off with their significant others, and you're back at home.
All of a sudden, you hear that noise. It's the Snapchat notification, because you have Snapchat on your phone. You need to delete Snapchat off your phone. It's nothing but trouble. But you have Snapchat, and it goes off. You look, and it's that name. It's the name of the person who doesn't want commitment with you, but they want pleasure from you. They want to first butter you up and convince you that you should come over and watch a movie and cuddle.
You know it's always going to lead somewhere else. You're like, "I hate the way I feel the next day, but for now, it could feel good for a moment. The guilt and shame and the way I feel, how low I feel about myself and the low self-esteem and the worth issues that are soon to follow this night… For just a moment, this short moment, to give into this would be worth it." All of those thoughts… That's called temptation, and you have to get ahead of it.
You have to start being proactive, not reactive, because if you are not being proactive and you're being reactive, if you're in a moment of weakness, not ready to embrace temptation, because it's coming for every single one of us, you're going to react to that and be like, "You know what? I am lonely, and if this is a way out of my loneliness, I'm going every single time." And you lose the fight against temptation.
The problem here is you have to understand it's you plus temptation, when you give into it, that equals the sin. This is really important. Being tempted is not sinful. You're tempted because you are in a broken world and you are a broken person and right now you are underneath Satan's authority as he reigns on earth. He is not the ultimate authority, but he does have authority on earth. Because of that, you're going to be tempted. That does not make you awful. It does not make you bad. It makes you human.
Temptation is not a sin. However, what you do with it, what you choose to give to it, what is soon to follow after it, the result of it, what you do, could lead to sin. So, when you get that Snapchat and you say, "You know what? I'm worth more than that, because I am a daughter or a son of the Father God; I don't need this," and you say, "Thank you, but no thank you," and you call it a night and go to bed, you have fought temptation. But I know myself, and I know for a lot of us here, that's not the end of the story.
You're out with your friends, and you're like, "I'm not going to drink tonight." Everyone is drinking. You're like, "Okay. One Ranch Water, I guess. Low calorie. The diet thing." You drink. You drink another. You start to feel something, and you're like, "If I drink one more, I know I'm crossing the line, and I know that on the other end of that line, on the other end of this temptation, I'm going to be led to sin. I'm going to be led to text that person or do that thing or mess up in some way, and it's going to take me farther and farther and farther."
If you give in, that is what produces sin, but the temptation, the thought you have, is not the sin. It's the result of the brokenness of the world and that you are broken. Because you and I choose to sin, because in that moment we don't choose God or we don't choose… Fellows, a reoccurring one for us… This is the reason pornography… And ladies too. I have to stop saying that. Ladies too.
One of the reasons pornography is the way it is in today's society is, first, because temptation is everywhere…in marketing, in commercials, on billboards. We don't know how to fight that. We don't know how to get in the fight. Like I said, we're reacting. Temptation hits us, billboard or person walking by or that, and we're reacting to it, and we don't get in front of it, and we fall, and we lead. Me plus temptation is equaling sin because I don't know how to fight it.
You have to know that if you were to give into that, where does it lead to? What does it say in James? That once you give birth to sin and you continue to feed it, it's going to lead to death. You have to see the end, because that's what sin does. It convinces you. Temptation convinces you that sin is going to be amazing for as long as you want it to, but the reality is sin rarely ever ends where it starts. Sin rarely ever ends where it begins.
What do I mean by that? Like I said, you're in your 20s. You're single. You can go live it up. But the reality is when you go get wasted or when you go get high, it usually results in a lot of anxiety and stress or that hangover the next day. Last time I checked, no one is getting their hair held back and is like, "This is awesome!" as they're puking everywhere. But you know it's coming. Sin, when given birth, leads to so much consequence.
Or wondering… Man, all this hooking up. Statistics are crazy about STDs, and none of us are talking about it. What are we doing? We're being deceived. "Yeah, this is awesome. Hookup culture is awesome." Yet everyone is having to go get tests constantly, wondering, "Do I have an STD?" On the other end of that, it's no good. It doesn't end where it began. What started so fun and carefree and passionate ended in embarrassment and guilt and shame.
The pornography… "It's just me. It's not affecting anyone else. This is just a 'me' thing. I'm a single. It'll change when I get into a relationship." Then when you get into that relationship, you start comparing them, because you're used to being addicted to the variety that you see on the screen. That person isn't entertaining you in the way those women or men did on that screen, and now it's just leading to more and more death. It didn't end how it began.
James is saying here, "Hey, wake up. Sin is robbing you. Temptation is lying to you." The more you feed it… If I were to right now grab one cookie and eat it, it's like, "Sure. My diet is not ruined. It's not the end of the world. There's always tomorrow." But more than likely, I'm like, "Well, tomorrow is a new day. Let's send it. Let's eat a few." Then I eat a few cookies, and then people want to go eat Salata or something, and I'm like, "No thanks." I'm looking in the mirror, and I'm just miserable.
What started off as one cookie… I'm eating more and more and more, and I feel sick. In the same way, what started off as one small thing… You kept feeding it, like James says, more and more and more, and it grew bigger and bigger and bigger, and it got more and more of an appetite, and now it's devouring you. You're addicted. You're ashamed. You don't know what it's like to be free. That's never what should mark the life of a Christian in a relationship with the Lord. He wants freedom for you. He wants good things for you, which is why James ends the way he does with temptation.
- How temptation is defeated. James 1:16: "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."
I'm about to walk us through, as I wrap up, three steps on how temptation is defeated. I'm just going to take it sentence by sentence of what James says here. The first thing he says is, "Remember what's true." When faced with temptation, when faced with that opportunity to choose God or to choose sin, remember what's true. Wake up.
You're being poured lies by Satan or by the world, what culture is saying, what yourself is saying. Your heart, the Bible says, is wicked and deceitful above all else. Don't listen to yourself. You're going to choose you every single time, and that only ends, like he said earlier, in death. Don't be deceived. So, in the moment of temptation, how you can defeat it is to remember what's true. He says in verse 16, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters."
So how? First, know who you're fighting. Know where the source of temptation is coming from. Then secondly, understand that your temptation is lying to you. Everything we've covered. That's how you remain in remembering truth, constantly being reminded, speaking it out. I remember the time in my life where I started bringing accountability into my life. By "accountability" I just mean brothers and sisters who are willing to call you out and call you higher as you pursue the Lord.
Accountability changed everything in my life. If I'm struggling with lust, I can say, "Hey, guys, I'm struggling with lust. I'm struggling with wandering thoughts. I want to give in. I want to cross boundaries. I want to do these things. Will you hold me accountable?" No soldier goes into the war zone alone. You need other brothers and sisters to remind you of truth, that when you're being deceived, they can say, "Hey, wake up! You're being lied to. There's no life there. That's leading you to death. Wake up." Sometimes we can't see it ourselves.
So, practically, remember the truth and let people remind you. Be around people who will constantly remind you of truth. Never forget the power of confessing, the truth behind confession. We confess our sins to one another. We pray for one another so we will experience healing. The reason we confess is not just to be better sinners or to glorify our sin. We confess so people can remind us of what's true, because our temptation is constantly deceiving us.
First Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." This fired me up when I read this text and I was thinking about temptation. Temptation at times can feel so heavy.
When you're driving home and you're like, "I know exactly what's waiting for me; that computer is waiting for me when I get home, and I'm alone" or "When I get to the house with me and my girlfriend or significant other or that person, I know what's coming" or "Hey, I know tonight when I go out I'm going to drink and drink" or "I'm going to hit this or do that," whatever it might be… Temptation can feel so heavy, and it's like, "There's no way I'm breaking free from this. I'm sending it tonight. I'm doing this."
If you are a son or daughter of God, we have been given a way out, according to this verse. This is a powerful verse. A way to be proactive and not be deceived is to constantly remind yourself of this verse. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. When Satan and the world and yourself are convincing you that you have to give in, that this is the only way to fix your loneliness, that this is the only way to bring you satisfaction, that this is better than God…
When it's screaming that at you, you can shout this verse back at it. If God is allowing you to be tempted, it's because he has already predetermined that you can withstand that temptation. That's what this verse is telling me. If God is allowing us to be tempted, it's because he knows "He can withstand it. He can choose me, because I will give him the strength." That's what that says.
There's no temptation to you that you cannot withstand that God allows in your life. That's powerful. The next time you feel like all you have to do is cave in, remember, "If this is in front of me, if I'm being tempted with this, there is power in being a son and daughter of God, and I can resist, and I can choose him."
That leads me to the second step. You choose him because you remember who your Father is. You choose him because you don't forget who he has been and who he is in your life. We can't forget, you guys. We can't forget who God really is. In verse 17, it says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
We have to have the right view of who God is, a God who's a Father. So many of us want to run to ourselves or run to the world or run to any solution other than God because we do not remember who God actually is. You've let culture dictate who God is. You've let media dictate who God is. You've let circumstances or your upbringing or that church you hated that did that really wrong thing to you or that person dictate who God is.
You're like, "If that's who God is, I want nothing to do with it. God is a judger. God is a dictator. God is a cosmic killjoy. He doesn't want me to have vacation. He doesn't want me to have fun. He just wants me to do all of these rules and these yeses and noes." That's not who God is. That's not my God. That's not the God in the Bible. That's not who James is saying God is here. James is saying, on the contrary, every good thing you have…
Whether you follow God or not, he is the Creator of everything you have, and every good thing you have is from God. It's not from you. If you think it's from you, you are being deceived. Every good and perfect gift has come from above. But there is a Father of Lies, and his name is Satan. He wants to convince you that he has something better for you than the Father of Lights. That's how James is referring to God here: the Father of Lights, the God who illuminates and allows you to see clearly.
In the midst of all the fog that temptation creates, you can see God is not trying to rob from you. He is not trying to rip you off. He is trying to set you free. You think following temptation and going to sin is going to give you freedom. "Yeah, night out on the town. Yeah, I can drink what I want. I can get as much money as I want, the women I want, the men I want, do what I want when I want." You are enslaved. You're a slave to sin.
It's deceiving you to believe you're free, but you're bound. Only in the Lord can one be free, but your sin is going to do everything to convince you that's not true. It's going to do everything it can to distort and allow you to forget who God is. So, in the face of the temptation, the way you defeat it is to remember he's a good Father who loves to give every good and perfect gift to his children, which is step three.
How do you defeat temptation? Remember what your Father has done. Verse 18: "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." It's really cool here. James uses another birthing analogy, but this time it's not us plus a choice or a temptation or a desire that gives birth to sin. This time, because us plus sin is going to continually keep us separated from God… God knew that, so he gave us ultimately the perfect gift through his Son.
When James says here the "word of truth," he's talking about Jesus, his brother. He's saying, "Look at what God has done." He chose, despite when you get to that fork in the road and choose sin over him, and he saw what you would do… While you were a sinner, he chose to allow you an opportunity to be reborn, to die to your old self that craves sin and wants to be lord of your own life and to be reborn in Jesus.
God gave us the Word of truth, also known as Jesus, so we can be reborn, that we can be new, so we can have the strength through Jesus to defeat and conquer temptation, because he conquered sin once and for all on the cross. Looking to Jesus, remembering what the Father has done for you in giving his one and only Son, is how you withstand temptation.
Remembering that at one point all had sinned. Today, every one of us comes in here with sins that create a separation between us and God. God did not want that separation. He did not want that distance. He didn't want to keep things from you. He wanted a thriving relationship with his children, so in order to make that a way, he sent his one and only child so we could be children of God. That child named Jesus came down to earth, and instead of giving in to temptation…
He was literally tempted. There's a part in the Bible where Jesus is literally tempted by Satan himself. Like, right there in front of him, in the midst of a wilderness, a desert. For 40 days he had not eaten. Satan is holding out a platter of bread and is trying to get Jesus to eat it and is tempting him and tempting him. Jesus does not fall. Jesus remained perfect through it all, making him the perfect sacrifice in a way you and I never could.
So he took himself, and he who knew no sin became sin on the cross, and he died our death that we deserved. For all of the times when we came to the fork in the road and chose our sin over God, he hung there on that cross, and he became sin. Why? Because God knew when the temptation would come, yeah, we would want to choose God, but at times, because we are broken people, we were going to choose our sin, so he came and made his Son sin on our behalf.
He died the death that was in our place, and then they buried him. Then three days later, he defeated death. He conquered sin. He rose from the grave. We are about to celebrate one of the greatest days in history, when Jesus rose from the grave, declaring victory over sin and death once and for all. This weekend, I hope you come and join us. If you don't have a church home, come join us Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and what it meant for you and me on behalf of our sin.
In the midst of temptation, when it seems like there's nothing we can do to defeat it, we have Jesus to look to. It is crazy to think that God chose… James says he chose to give us birth, to give us the opportunity to be reborn through his Son's death and burial and resurrection on our behalf, that we may have life. God wants to use young adults to change the world. God wants to use young adults, like you and me, to declare to the world his goodness and to bring glory to him, but the reality is temptation will be in the way, trying to get you to stop that from happening.
Satan is on a mission to do everything he can to stop you from seeing the potential God wants to use you for to bring his name glory and to use your life in ways you could never imagine. So get ready to fight, and look to Jesus. Because Jesus chose you and died on the cross, you now, when faced with the decision to choose your sin or to choose God, have the power to choose God, to say no to sin and yes to God. When you don't, you have Jesus who said, "I'll take it for him." So, when you're faced to follow temptation, choose Jesus, because he chose you. Let's pray.
Father, thank you that in the midst of our sin and our suffering, you made a way through Jesus, that you did not leave us alone, that you did not leave us here to fight on our own, that you made a way through Jesus, that despite our victory, our failures, we can look to Jesus who took our sin and who will take those times.
Even tonight, when we're faced with temptation and we come at the crossroads to choose you or to choose sin and we choose sin, may we not use that to run farther from you. May we run to you because of Jesus, because he ran to us, because he ran down to earth for us. God, because of that, may we not choose you instead of sin out of some obligation but out of an awe that you would love us that much. Because Jesus chose sin on our behalf, may we choose him instead of our sin. In that we pray, amen.