Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taking the Bait: James 1:14-16

The Salmon swims upstream. He has a goal--to get to his spawing ground. He has a difficult path--swimming against the fast moving river. He has a strong desire to reach the end and accomplish his purposes. A glint in the water catches his eye. He looks and sees something tempting. He has a goal and a purpose, but he is hungry. In fact, he may reason, he might never fully accomplish his goal if he doesn't take some time to eat. He looks back as the glint moves and catches his eye again. It looks tempting. It shouldn't take long. It will be refreshing. He moves and bites, and he is caught by the fisherman on the shore. Whose fault is it that he is caught? Is it the fisherman's fault? The fisherman did bait the hook. There was some deceit involved in making the bait look good for food to the salmon. But what if the salmon had stayed to his purpose and never gone to and eaten the bait? The obvious answer is he wouldn't have been caught.

We have the same picture drawn for us here in James. In James 1:14 states, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." Notice please how verse 14 starts out, "Every man is tempted." We could put woman or person in that verse instead of man. Each and every one of us is tempted. If you've never been tempted, please raise your hand. My hands did not leave the keyboard. We all know that we are tempted. There is not one of us who has not been tempted, many times over. These temptations, we have seen, do not come from God. Last time we looked at verse 13 and saw that God is not the author of our sin. God has no experience with evil, his absolutely holy nature demands that. Therefore, God cannot be tempted, and He does not tempt.

Going back to verse 14, the words "drawn away" and "enticed" are hunting terms. They bring a picture of being lured from safety and drawn to a place to be ensnared. Who in verse 14 is doing the drawing away? Who is enticing? Our "own lust." The problem is still within me. The bait might be set by the world. The bait might be set by Satan. I fall prey, however, as I am enticed by my own lust. This is not a general lust of people, but James points out that this lust is my very own. The things that entice me are likely not the same things that entice you. One lady may be enticed into the converstion about the family down the street, reveling in the gossip. Another lady may stand back and wonder how those ladies can prattle on like that while she herself is falling prey to jealousies.

I want to consider our flesh a little more. I have heard many people say when times are tough, when people are falling prey to sin, "Satan is really at work here." I don't deny that Satan is walking about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). We also see that Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Consider though, what does Satan accuse us of? How about adultery, fornication, impurity, unbridled lust, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, contentiousness, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, strife, selfish ambition, dissentiousness, envyings, murder, drunkenness, unrestrained partying. Did you find yourself here? I may be able to say I haven't committed murder, but I can't say I've never been jealous of someone else. I may not have ever been to a drunken party, but I can't say that nothing has ever been more important to me than God (idolatry). Where do these sins come from? You may recognize this list from Galatians 5:19-21. These are all works of my flesh. These all come from within me. I am responsible. John MacArthur in his sermon "Whose Fault is our Temptation" states, "The problem is not the tempter without, the problem is the traitor within."

I am enticed away by those lusts of my flesh that draw me to the bait. Then James 1:15 states, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." This verse catches me on more familiar ground. We have moved from hunting and fishing to childbirth. My lust is conceived -- literally, it's become pregnant. Still borrowing from John MacArthur, because I think his outline makes it very clear, we can see the progress in this birth of sin. First we start with lust -- our desire. We see the desire, and this is linked to our emotions. We see something, we feel good about it. We see that it looks like it could satisfy us. It looks good. Then we have the drawing away -- the deception. This happens in our mind. We rationalize and justify our desire in our mind. Then our lust is impregnated with a plan -- a design. In our will we form a plan as to how we can obtain that desire. Once we have the plan, we act on it -- we disobey. This is our behavior. We sin.

Consider then, where do we need to stop sin? Should it be our goal simply not to do the behavior? If we wait that long, we have sinned. Think about giving birth. Once the child is in the womb, the child has to come out. If our lust is impregnated, conceived, it has to come out. It will be born in the actions of sin. So, in order to live a holy life we have to start with the emotions. We have to start with guarding the emotions. We have to guard what "bait" we allow to sit in front of our eyes. We have to put good and uplifting things in front of our eyes, to bring our emotions to a God-honoring position. We also have to bring our mind in control. How do we do both these things? Psalm 119:11 states, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." Romans 12:2 states, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." We start with the Word of God. We renew our minds with Scriptures. We put a guard around our mind so that only those things which are pure and right and pleasing are in our thoughts (Philippians 4:8). Read with me Ephesians 5:18-21, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." All of this is one sentence which starts out with the exhortation not to let yourself be controlled by wine (wasn't drunkenness a work of the flesh?--don't be controlled by the flesh) but to be controlled by the Spirit. The passage then lists several things which helps us to be controlled by the Spirit. First, by having God-honoring music. Doctrinally sound music which exalts Christ. Doesn't that speak to our emotions? Good, doctrinally sound music will speak to your mind as well. You should definitely have your mind engaged in discernment and learning when you listen or participate in music. When you have good music though, aren't your emotions turned toward Christ as well? Your emotions are more controlled because they are under the influence of good music. Next in the verse we give thanks to God. Isn't that in our mind? Regardless of my circumstances or trials, giving thanks brings me to a place of right thinking about God and my circumstances. Then we are to submit ourselves to one another. Is this not right behavior which starts in my will? I understand passages like Philippians 2 where we have the example of Christ's submission, and I understand that I esteem others above myself. My behavior then is right. In brief, we see the opposite of sin being conceived and find God-honoring behavior brought forth.

Going back to James 1, at the end of verse 15 we see that the end of sin being brought forth is death. Think of a mother who has just brought forth her baby. She gazes at the tiny fingers and toes and imagines all things wonderful for her baby. Then imagine her grief and heartbreak as that baby is a murderer. Think back to that emotional state in the beginning of sin. That place where you belived all you needed was "this" and you'd be satisfied. Then this thing that you justified and looked to for satisfaction only brings you death. This thing (sin) when it is finished, only brings death. Those words you spoke for vindication and justification only bring broken relationships and separation from God. Those many things you bought while seeking comfort and happiness only brings enslavement and lost ministry opportunities. This death spoken of in the verse is either physical or spiritual. God is holy and cannot look on sin. Therefore, if you are bringing forth sin, your relationship with Christ is broken. This is spiritual death. Sin also sometimes brings with it physical death. Sin often ruins our physical well-being. The end of all sin is not happy. James 1:16 says, "Do not err, my beloved brethren." "Do not err," literally, "do not be deceived." This is an incredible deception. The promise of pleasure and fulfillment only to find death.

My challenge to you today is just this. Guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23 states, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." We saw that deception starts in the mind. Do not let yourself be deceived by sin. Do not let your flesh entice you into sin. Fill your mind with God-honoring music, with Scripture, giving thanks to God in everything. Purpose in your heart to do that which is pleasing to God.

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