James Study 3: To do or not to do?
Read James 1:13-15
“Let no one say when he is tempted: ‘I am tempted of God’… He Himself tempts no one.” James 1:13. James makes it very clear that God has nothing at all to do with sin and certainly would not do anything that would encourage us to give in to it.
What are temptations?
a) Temptations often arise because of certain “trials” (problems or difficulties), when we are tempted to doubt, to turn our backs on people, or on God; when we have a choice to react just like the world, or to react with the Holy Spirit in us in a way that glorifies God. (James 1:6; Matthew 21:21-22)
b) Temptations come into our lives through our own selfish ambitions (James 1:14-15), whereas “trials” are basically difficulties that lie outside our control. (2 Thessalonians 1:4)
*Temptations feed off our own tendency toward self-reliance. (Genesis 3:1)
c) Temptations are the pull of our own “flesh” (our human minds and emotions) to question God, or to do things our own way instead of God’s way. (Romans 7:14-15)
*Temptation can often be very subtle. (Deuteronomy 12:30)
*Temptation knows our weak spots. (1 Kings 11:1-2)
*Temptation only becomes sin when we respond to it and are enticed by it. (Deuteronomy 11:16)
*Temptation’s breeding ground is in our mind. (Romans 8:6; Colossians 2:18)
There is a slippery slope, mentioned in James, whereby temptation ends in death.
Firstly, we are drawn away from our dependency on God and the work of the Holy Spirit in us;
. then we are baited;
. then we swallow the lie;
. then evil desire takes hold;
. then the sin is acted upon and,
. in the fullness of time, death occurs.
. This could be physical death, but is definitely spiritual death.
Just remember the story of King David and the beautiful Bathsheba. (See 2 Samuel 11:1-12;19.) David’s first wrong step was that he should have been at war. (2 Samuel 11:1) The slippery slope of adultery and murder then culminated in the death of a baby.
Why does it happen?
The simple reason that we give in to temptation is that we have not completely “crucified our flesh” (put to death our human minds and emotions – Galatians 2:20) and so our “flesh” rises up, wanting to be in charge over our spirit, even though our spirit is born again and wants to follow God. We have to choose for our inward self (our spirit) to dominate our outward self (our “flesh”).
*Conscience is the voice of the human spirit.
*Reason is the voice of the soul and mind, but
*Feelings are the voice of the body.
So we have civil war within ourselves. (Romans 7:15-20) We can be having a bad day, when everything is going wrong, but it is what we do with our emotions and our reasoning, that determines whether or not we sin. When we submit to our reactions, that is when they become sinful. It is quite possible to experience positive emotions, even when Satan is attacking us. People can be so annoying, or hell-bent on taking out their sour emotions on us; nothing is going right; but God’s word is very clear that we can have “pure joy” in these circumstances. We can see God’s victory every time. If we go by our feelings, we will be in trouble; we will be “yo-yo” Christians. We don’t need to be preached to about “dos and don’ts”; we just have to let our spirit dominate our “flesh”. (Galatians 5:16) God will enlighten us through our spirit. After all, what is the point of giving in to temptation when we are children of the living God and sin is not nearly as much fun any more, now that we are walking in the light of God’s grace?
“Now, thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
Jesus knew everything about the problem of temptation (Matthew 4:1, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15) and how to have the victory and not sin. When Jesus was tempted, the devil focused on three vital areas:
a) Physical needs and desires;
b) Possessions and power; and
So Jesus knows, first-hand, what we are experiencing and He is willing and able to help us defeat temptation. He lived on this earth in just the same way that God expects us to live: “as the Father living in Him did the work.” (John 14:10)
How to overcome temptation?
1) by grace; (Ephesians 1:7-8)
2) by prayer; (Matthew 26:41)
3) look for the way out; (1 Corinthians 10:13)
4) act immediately – do not put off obeying; (John 14:23; Genesis 3:6)
5) flee temptation and pursue a right standing with God; (1 Timothy 6:11)
6) take every thought captive to Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:5)
7) rejoice; (Philippians 4:4-9)
8) live by faith, that is, in total dependency upon God; (Proverbs 3:5-6)
9) choose positive thoughts; (1 Peter 1:13)
10) put on the full armour of God; (Ephesians 6:13-18)
11) protect your weak spots and have a plan for resisting; (James 4:7; Galatians 5:16)
12) surrender totally. (Romans 12:1-2)
Do not be surprised when temptation comes to you. It is common to everyone. What you do with it, however, is totally your responsibility. You cannot blame anyone else or your past, parents or situation, for what you do with the temptation. People cannot even make you sin. That is the choice you make and you have to answer to God for your reactions. What God wants us to do is to react like Jesus, resist the devil with God’s word and bring our “flesh” (minds and hearts) into subjection to His Spirit. When the temptation seems strong and you have a good excuse for giving in to temptation, consider whether Satan may be trying to block God’s purposes for your life or for someone else’s life.
Remember: “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 stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Read James 1:16-18
All good gifts come from God so, daily, we should have a heart full of thanksgiving to God. This is a perfect lifestyle for overcoming temptation. The trouble is that we often behave like spoiled children, who never even notice what their parents have done for them. Not only has God given us a home in heaven, washed away ALL our sins, but He has also given us the “GOD LIFE” now, running through us, so that we have all the power to live eternally here and now. (Romans 8:11) What an amazing thought that we can be on the earth like a “little Jesus”. It all depends on how much we are willing to surrender ourselves to His Holy Spirit.
Do not be deceived (James 1:16) into thinking that there is anything you have done to get yourself saved, or gifted. We are only responsible to “stir up” the gift that God has placed inside us at salvation (2 Timothy 1:6) and to maintain a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. If we want to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit, we must rejoice, pray and give thanks. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-20) Again, we do not go by how we feel. Rather, we say: “Dear Lord, I’m so glad that I’m a child of God. Thank you that I am born again; my inward self is a whole new person and the very life of your Spirit is living through me.” This is what God’s word says. So, as we speak it out loud, it becomes more real to our spirit which “stirs up” inside us, moving us to respond with deep, spiritual joy.
Try keeping a “Thank You” book and, every night, writing five “thank you” messages to God, trying to make them different every day. This will help you to develop an ongoing attitude of gratitude.
The Real Church – Home Challenges 3
1. What did you enjoy most from the previous study?
Read the notes “To do or not to do?”
2. From the list, “What are temptations?” which do you find most difficult? Are there any points which are new to you?
3. Looking at the slippery slope from temptation to death, where do you think it is easiest to get off the slide? Give reasons.
4. Were there any points on how to overcome temptation that you found helpful? Which ones and why?
Read James 1:19-27
5. Name the three things that James says everyone should be? (James 1:19)
6. What is the problem with being angry?
7. The Bible tells us to “be angry and sin not.” (Ephesians 4:26) Under what circumstances is this possible?
8. The Bible also tells us: “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26,27) Why should we deal with anger immediately?
9. What should we get rid of? (James 1:21)
10. What should we receive? Why should we receive it?
11. What does the word “save” mean in this context? (James 1:21) What does it include?
12. If all we do is “listen to the Lord“, what happens?
13. What happens to the person who listens and does what the Lord says? (James 1:25)
14. What happens to the person who continues to do what the Lord says?
15. What do you understand as the meaning of the word “blessed”? (James 1:25)
16. What does God accept as religion which is pure and faultless? Read Isaiah 58. How does this apply to you? Don’t forget Proverbs 31:20.
17. In what way are you challenged by what it describes?
18. God has placed us in this world. James says that God wants us to avoid being polluted by it. Can you think of ways to avoid being polluted by it?
19. Sum up, in one short sentence, what these few verses mean to you.