James’ Urgent Message – Part IV
A Bible Study in the Book of James 1:19-21
Lusts and Temptations – The Source and the Overcoming
“9 But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position; 10 and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 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 too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. 12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13 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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.
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. 19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. “
It’s Not About ‘Who’ You Are
There are so many lusts in life. ‘Lust’ simply means a very strong desire. We generally associate that word with sexual lusts. However, there are more strong desires in life than I can list. James starts with one of them – a desire for power, prestige, or acclaim. Many people want to be rich. Some lust after wealth, power, position and will do anything to attain it. The world views the rich man as more important than the poor. God’s view is that the person from lowly circumstances is held in higher esteem in His eyes than the rich and powerful one. The price of your clothing has no meaning to God.
The exercise of humility can form a barrier, protecting us from being carried away by a lust for position and power. The temptation cannot survive if we remain humble. While there is nothing wrong with being wealthy or having power, there is something wrong with lusting after it and exalting the rich over the poor. In overcoming lusts and temptations, we must utilize the tools of the Word and the armor of God. There is no easy way to overcome the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16) because they are from the world and we are surrounded with them. That isn’t an excuse to give in to them. James is pretty clear about that.
We are to overcome the lusts and temptations of life. We can. Sometimes we don’t want to. Those things – the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life – feel really good to the flesh. Power feels good. If it didn’t, no would want it. Our flesh really, really likes lust and pride. It’s a battle. But – it is a battle we CAN win. We must want to please our God more than our flesh. That’s the decision we have to make.
Taking Personal Responsibility
Think about the list of virtues James and Peter laid out in our study last week. Here are some things that were not on either list – money, power, status, clothing, house, or car. There is only one thing God consistently looks at first – the heart. If the heart of the rich looks like the heart of the poor, then they are equal in God’s eyes. Rich or poor, overcoming the lusts and temptations of life is something we must all do.
Temptation is Universal
Either way, James knows that we are all subject to temptation and tells us that the source of temptation is inside us! We can’t even blame the devil. Yes, the devil goes around trying to devour us. But, here is the source of temptation – But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
“James was describing a thoroughly internalized process. The source of all temptation is the self and its desire for the sake of desire. Thus the complex relationship between thinking, feeling, and willing bound up in this process of temptation is made plain. We entice ourselves with the object we desire. The blame for temptation then can never rest upon God, but entirely upon us. All temptation originates within us. Temptation is an activity of our own evil desire.” NIV Commentary.
Overcoming Lusts and Temptations – Our Mind, Will and Emotions
Desires and temptations are dealt with in our mind, will, and emotions. We either feed them or we defeat them with the Word, self-control, and whatever other tools we may need in order to stand strong. Each person has to be willing to be honest about the desires and temptation in their own lives. Finding an accountability partner might be a great step. Just someone to help you stay on the right track. When we are all alone, it’s very easy to convince ourselves that there is nothing wrong with what we want to do. Having that accountability can save you a great deal of heartache.
Why Do We Blame God?
This is a very personal, internal battle. The issue is not with temptation, but what we do with our inner desires. Do we immediately submit them to God, or, do we harbor them, feed them, and then act on them, and then blame God? None of us want to take responsibility for giving in to our own lusts, but we must. We can’t blame God. It does no good to blame ourselves. What does do some good, is to repent and prepare a battle plan for the next time.
Three Qualities for Victory over Lusts and Temptations
God only gives good gifts to His children. He tempts no one. Even the unbeliever is responsible for his/her own decisions and actions. Now James gives us three qualities which will help us endure and be successful. Be:
1. Swift to hear
2. Slow to speak
3. Slow to anger
How many times have we wished we had applied those three elements of self-control to our lives? They may not seem to have anything to do with overcoming lusts and temptations. They do! If we can learn self-control of our desires in the areas of what we hear, what we say, and controlling anger, we should be well equipped to deal with other desires. Whatever tools we used to conquer those three areas will be the same tools we can use to defeat temptations and lusts. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls. More action items, personal responsibility, and putting off and putting on. Get rid of filth and evil. Instead, accept the message from God that can save your soul.
Review James’ Exhortations and Action Items
James shows you the root, the fruit, and the cure!
Please review these sessions in Chapter 1 of James and write down for yourself every action item James has laid out. Do the same with the ones in Peter. You will then have a step-by-step manual for success as a Christian and those lusts and temptations won’t win.