The Source of Temptation: Our Sin Nature.
Read James 1:12-18
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his lusts.”
During the War of 1812, American naval officer Oliver Hazard Perry wrote his commander after his victory over the Royal Navy ships in the Battle of Lake Erie. Upon his success, he pended, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” On Earth Day, 1971, comic Walt Kelly, in his comic of political satire “Pogo,” sought to capture the reality and destruction of pollution caused by our propensity to create our problems. To drive his point home, in a parody of Perry’s comment, he wrote, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” The truthfulness of those words resonated with our inward destructive behaviors. As the saying goes, “We are our own worst enemy.”
To understand the struggle of temptation, we not only need to recognize that we have an enemy who is bent on our destruction, but we also need to acknowledge our inner appetite for sin. Tragically, rather than acknowledging our struggle, we often shift the blame upon others, even God. When we face circumstances and trials in our life, causing us to doubt God’s goodness and our faith, we blame God for allowing these events to happen. But James points back to the holiness of God when he states that God cannot be tempted by evil, and he does not tempt anyone. So, where does our struggle with faith and obedience originate? It comes from the sinful desires that exist within us. James confronts us with what we want to deny; we find sin is attractive and appealing. Subsequently, instead of resisting temptation, we excuse and justify it, redefining it, so it becomes acceptable. In our sin nature, we minimize sin by rationalizing it. Sin becomes a right of personal choice. Immorality becomes an identity. We label our sin a disease rather than a decision. We make sin externally triggered by our environment rather than internally driven by our passions. But even more tragic is that in our quest to make sin acceptable, we dismiss its consequence.
To challenge us, James bears our soul and reveals the ugliness of our self-deception. Instead of fleeing our lust for sin, we embrace its enticement. As a result, what began as a temptation to sin, becomes our embracement of sin. But sin is always destructive. No matter how much we may excuse and justify it, no matter how much we make it desirable, the consequence is always death. It results in the severity of God’s judgment. The death to which James refers is not just our physical death, but our eternal death where we are separated from God. We become our own enemy, for we validate the things causing our destruction.
But James does not leave us hopeless, for he reminds us that God desires to accomplish a different work in us. In verse 17, he reminds us that God, who does not change, not only brings judgment but also brings the perfect gift to us. That perfect gift is his redemptive truth and the wisdom to live by faith. While we are our own worst enemy, God is our own best friend. When we seek him, he always responds (vs. 5). If we persevere in our faith and obedience, God gives us a crown of life (vs. 12). In his Word, he brings us salvation and deliverance not only from the temptation of sin but even from ourselves. He puts to death our sinful nature (Romans 8:13) and gives us a new nature (Ephesians 4:24), the nature and character of Christ. Today, ask God to provide you with the strength to deny what you naturally desire and embrace the righteousness of Christ.