Pastor Edward Brouwer, Sept. 30, 2018, James 1:12-18, “Love Through Temptation”
Love Through Temptation
In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, he tells (in a series of 7 books) the story of 4 siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, who are whisked away to safety in the countryside during the Blitz of London in 1940. There they encounter a series of adventures. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy, the youngest, stumbles into a world hidden in the back of a wardrobe during a game of hide-and-seek. She comes back with great tales, but her siblings won’t believe her. On another day Lucy finds herself in the wardrobe again and this time Edmund follows her. When they return Lucy is full of more tales of adventure, and when Peter and Susan ask Edmund to confirm these, Edmund, facing his first temptation, because he is a petty and cruel older brother to Lucy, denies them—much to Lucy’s shame and hurt. Finally on another dreary English day, all 4 find themselves in Narnia and Peter as the oldest derides Edmund as a cruel liar. The story unfolds and Edmund steals away from the group and finds himself meeting the White Witch, the evil Occupier of Narnia. She invites Edmund onto her beautiful coach and offers him candy. And Edmund faces his next temptation. Turkish Delight, that sweet marzipan candy, is his undoing. The White Witch plies him with questions and ever more candy—who is he, how did he get here, who has he talked to. And Edmund gladly gives away not just these important facts but also his very freedom. Why would he do this? Is this just about some Turkish Delight? It goes deeper; Edmund is feeding his resentment toward his brother, feeding his longing to be special and to stand out. That’s what James says to us today: when we fall to sinful temptation it’s because of our own evil desires within us that compel us. Read James 1:12-18
Today we are talking about temptation. Let’s face it: we all face temptation. Temptation is a reality in our lives. It’s as old as the Garden of Eden, when Satan duped our first parents into believing that God didn’t really have their best interests at heart, that He was holding out on them: that if they ate the fruit that God had expressly said they should not, well then they would possess knowledge (of good and evil). So Adam and Eve did eat, and the taint of poisonous sin has passed on to every human since then. Theologically speaking we have a “sin nature” and because of that we are always inclined to do what we want to do when we want to do it—apart from God.
But you say, but didn’t God rescue us from sin? Yes through Christ and the incarnation we have a Savior. And I suppose that if God wanted to He could zap us to heaven the moment we became Christ followers (wow wouldn’t that be great?!) Well no, because it turns out that God uses us to share the good news with others so that others may know AND God is using the trials and temptations of this life to draw us closer to Him and be more like Jesus. James is saying, when you face temptation and you fall into it, don’t blame God for that! As if to say “God could fix this, and because he hasn’t, well then it’s His fault.” Yes for sure God is powerful enough to protect you from every temptation—but He wants so much more. It’s one thing to say God is allowing this temptation, it’s an entirely other thing to say, when I fall in that temptation, that God is causing me to sin. (Paul says in Romans 5 that God mercifully forgives all our sins in Christ, in Romans 6: 1 he says “some of you will say let sin abound that grace may abound” (let’s sin more so that God can forgive us more!) NO! When he allows us to be tempted He is doing that to test or refine our faith. The outcome is what God is looking for: that we would be refined like silver or gold, the dross of which is removed through the trial of heating.
Let’s take a specific example of temptation that most of us experience: the temptation to self-pity. Does God really love me? If so why am I experiencing this difficulty in my life? So and so hurt my feelings and I have every right to feel sorry for myself! And the temptation to wallow can lead us to feelings of resentment, anger, and can lead us to say and do things that are not Christ like. Some people deaden their feelings of hurt and self pity through addictions: binge eating, abuse of alcohol, retail therapy or isolation (well if you don’t like me then I am just going to run off like Edmund). All of this leads to more hurt and isolation! Our wrong desires, when acted upon lead to sin which leads to death…how many marriages have died a slow and sure death because one or both partners selfishly chose what they wanted, asserting their rights. That is a path toward the death of a relationship.
So what is the antidote? James says every good and perfect gift comes to us from God and in fulfillment of His marvelous purposes for us in Christ, He has given us new life, a new birth through the Word of Truth (Jesus Christ)
He says: Jesus is the answer! How is Jesus the answer to our temptations?
First we have been justified in Christ and declared free from our bondage: because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, he dealt sin and death a lethal blow, we have a living hope. In Christ we can truly say, the old human nature and it’s never ending push toward sin, has been death a death blow. In Christ we no longer are slaves to sin: you are a child of God. A beloved son a true daughter! That is our inheritance. That is our position in Christ: we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Second, in Christ we have spiritual resources to overcome temptations to sin. We are called to keep our eyes on HIM. (Think about the simple act of driving, there are so many distractions, we must keep our eyes both on the road with the destination in mind). Both the road and the destination are Jesus! I love how Jesus leads us by example In Matthew 4 Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Each time Satan entices him (with food, testing God to prove His love, and with power and authority) Jesus responds, out of the deep conviction of the father’s love for him, from what God has said in His Word: God is ultimate—not food, not my feelings about whether God really loves me and will protect me, not even you Satan with all your false promises.
Because at the end of the day when we fall to our temptations it’s really just believing that I need this thing or that thing to be happy. But whatever idol we cling to, our rights, our money, our feelings, it always over promises and under delivers. Look at Edmund, he was hooked on Turkish delight, but what he really was hooked on was feeding his resentment toward his older brother, wanting to be special and not live in Peter’s shadow, believing the lie of the Witch that he would become a prince and a King if only he would do her bidding. Edmund got completely fooled and imprisoned. And then Aslan came, he sacrificed his life in exchange for Edmund’s. And the witch and all her minions had a field day at the stone table. But they underestimated the power of a deeper truth “that if a perfect sinless sacrifice was made for a captive of evil, then even death could not hold the sinless one.”
How do we apply the gospel truth that Christ has rescued us? In the gospels Jesus said to his disciples “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, keep watch and pray therefore that you do not give in to temptation”.
Watch and pray. Keep your eyes on Jesus. When you are tempted, stop, look, listen, as though you are literally at a railroad track and a train may come and destroy you. Stop what you are doing, look to Jesus, listen to what he is telling you. You are beloved, I love you so much, I want to give you life and that abundantly. Believe and receive.