James Lesson 4

RESISTING AND OVERCOMING TEMPTATION (JAMES 1:12-15)

 

Opening Discussion:  "The devil made me do it!"  This was a line used by Flip Wilson, a comedian from the 1970's era, as part of his act.  Many have laughed at, and perhaps even used this line through the years, but hopefully none of us have taken it seriously.  The devil has been portrayed as a harmless character in a red suit, with a long red tail and horns.  Kids wear devil costumes during the Halloween season.  Parents and others say, "How cute!"  And we get the impression that the devil is harmless, yet scripture paints a vastly different picture of Satan.

Q1.  Does the church pay enough attention to the role and power Satan has in the lives of its members?  Or does the church body just avoid talking about the devil, as if he doesn't exist?

1.  Have you ever played the blame game?  Let's look at several scriptures, where we find people in the Bible blaming others for their own sins.

a.  Adam blamed Eve when he said to God, "The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."  (Genesis 3:12)  When confronted for her part in the sin of eating the forbidden fruit, Eve replied, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."  (Genesis 3:13)  Here we see Adam blaming Eve and Eve blaming the serpent.  So we can see from this exchange that the blame game was alive and well during the earliest events of history.  In fact, it began shortly after creation, and it's very much alive today.

b.  When the people of Israel got impatient waiting for Moses to come down from St. Sinai, they convinced Aaron to build a golden calf to worship.  When Moses confronted him about this, Aaron responded, "You know how prone these people are to do evil.  They said to me, 'Make us gods, who will go before us.'  They gave me gold, I threw it into the fire, and out came the calf."  ((Exodus 32:22-24)  Aaron never accepted any responsibility for his own sin.  Instead, he blamed the people.

c.  Then look in I Samuel 15, verses 3, 9, and 15; where Saul blamed his soldiers for keeping plunder from the battle (which was contrary to what God had told him to do) and he tried to deflect the responsibility onto others.

d.  These are only a few examples, but we can see a pattern emerging, where men in the Bible are confronted about their sin, and they attempted to deflect their personal responsibility onto other people.

Q2.  Give some current examples, either from media accounts, television shows, or personal experiences, which illustrate the degree to which some people will go, in their efforts to pass the buck, rather than take responsibility for their own actions.

Q3.  Why do you thing we are tempted not to accept responsibility when we have erred?

2.  Temptation and sin:

a.  In James 1:13, the author dispels the notion that somehow God Himself, the maker of all creation, is responsible for creating the sin nature in man.  This scripture goes on to teach that God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt any man.  Temptation offers something that looks good, but is actually harmful to us.  So what is the source of our temptations?  In verse 14, James explains that when we are tempted, we are enticed and may be lured away by our own evil desires.

b.  Although God does not tempt us, He allows temptations and trials to occur in our lives to test us and to prove and mature our faith.  That is why James (in verse 12) refers to the man who successfully endures testing as blessed (or happy), for he will receive the promise of eternal life.  The Book of Job is principally about proving the character of Job to Satan.  Job's faith could not be destroyed, no matter how much he suffered, or how undeserving this saint of God was of the trials he had to endure.  In Psalm 26:2, David asked God to test him.  By asking the Lord to examine, prove, and try him, he was inviting God to test the purity of his heart.

c.  We are all tempted, but temptation does not become a sin until we act upon the evil desires of our heart.  Jesus Himself was tempted, yet He was without sin, because He did not yield to the temptations presented by the devil.

d.  We need to realize that the temptation to sin comes from the mind and heart of Satan.  And Satan, in turn works through our hearts to tempt us to sin.  John 13:2 tells us that the devil put into the heart of Judas Iscariot (the desire) to betray Jesus.  But this does not exonerate Judas for his actions, because his wicked heart had to have desired what Satan desired, or he would not have acted upon this temptation.  Jesus confirms this in John 8:38, 41, and 44 when He said, "Evil people do the things of their father, Satan."  We should not, like Peter before he denied Jesus three times, be overconfident in our ability to resist temptation.  (Luke 22:31)  Instead, we need to pray without ceasing that our faith will not fail when Satan tries to trip us up and win us over to his camp.

3.  Since Satan was created without flaw, as revealed in Ezekiel 28:13-15, how did sin find its way into Satan and result in his ejection from heaven, along with about a third of the angels?  We know it did not originate from God, so where did it come from?  I believe the answer lies in the notion of free will.  God must have given Satan the same free will He affords to us.  (Gen. 4:7; Isa. 1:18-20)  However, when Satan made the conscious decision to violate God's trust, he was evicted from heaven.

4.  So why are people so easily deceived?  Satan is the father of lies and he has no truth in him.  (John 8:44)  Satan seeks to deceive us by getting us to believe or accept his lies. Read Matthew 13:38 and 39.  He also sends his followers to infiltrate the places where Christians gather, sometimes making it hard to discern the truth.  II Corinthians 4:4 further notes that the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers to God's truth.

Q4.  What are some of Satan's lies that people have accepted as truth today?

Q5.  How should we handle people who come to church, but continue to reject Christ and say things that are disruptive or divisive, or maybe they just refuse to give up their old life styles?

5.  So where does our sin nature come from?  David said that he was born with a sinful nature.  (Psalm 51:5)  Matthew 12:35 says it comes from the heart.  Matthew 15:19 further states, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies."  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, Romans 6:6 says that we crucify the old man of sin.  Essentially, we put to death our old life of sin (Coll. 3:5-7), and we are resurrected to a new life in Christ.  We who were dead in our sins have been made alive.  (Eph. 2:1-10)  His grace and mercy frees us from our former bondage of sin.  And our response to all that Christ has done for us should be to do good works and walk in the ways of our Lord.

Q6.  Ponder this question individually, rather than aloud.  How should my life be different, since I have put to death my old life of sin, and I am striving to imitate Christ and give glory to Him in my new life?

6.  Steps to take in resisting and overcoming temptation:

a.  Recognize the desires that lead to sin.  Uncontrolled lust leads to sin, therefore, when we are tempted, we must remove ourselves from the source of our temptation.  The things that tempt us will be different for each person (although Satan uses the same old tricks over and over).  Therefore, we need to be on alert for those things which are tempting to us.  Some of the things that may be tempting are sexual desires; over indulgences in food, sports, relaxation, or any other worldly pleasure; acquiring wealth or any of the things that money can buy; alcohol or drug abuse; power; etc.

b.  Understand the truth about temptation.  There is a war going on in every human heart between the spirit and the flesh.  (Mark 14:38)  We must make the decision regarding whom we will serve.  (Joshua 24:14, 15; Deut. 30:19, 20)

c.  Remember that God has called us to holiness.  (I Peter 1:15, 16)

d.  Take courage.  God has already given us everything we need to live a morally pleasing and obedient life.  (2 Peter 1:3, 4)  Use the tools He has given you.

e.  Realize that it is not a sin to be tempted.  Even Jesus was tempted when He was on this earth.  (Heb. 4:15)

f.  Temptation will only become a sin when we yield to it.

g.  God will not tempt us beyond what we are able to bear, and He will also provide a way of escape when we are tempted.  (I Cor. 10:13)  Look and pray for this escape route.

h.  Follow the pattern of Jesus when dealing with temptation.

(i)  Memorize scriptures, especially those passages that deal with your specific temptations.  (Psalm 119:11)

(ii) Resist the devil by quoting scripture, as Jesus did when He was tempted.  (Mark 4:7, 10)

i.  Be watchful, keep your heart pure, and pray for strength to endure to the end.  (Luke 21:34-36)

Q7.  What are some of the scriptures you have committed to memory, which provide strength to you as you deal with temptation?

Note:  If you haven't memorized scripture, you need to begin doing this, so you will be ready to resist Satan when he tempts you.  It's a given that temptation will come, so put on the full armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:14-17!

 

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