Sermon: The Fatal Attraction of Sin (James 1:13-16)

The Fatal Attraction of Sin

James 1:13-16

So far in my messages from the Book of James we have been speaking of trials. According to what James has said up to this point we are to count them as joy based on the fact that God has in mind our growth. When we respond to them in a God honoring way we grow and mature in Christ-likeness.

James 1:12 (ESV)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

There is, however, another side to trials. There is the dark side of the trial. There is another possibility. What happens when we don’t respond correctly? What happens when we waste the opportunity God has given us to grow? What happens to us when God sends a trial for our growth but rather than growing we choose to use it as a means to sin? This is what James looks at in our passage today. Rather than standing steadfast we fall.

What happens when we fall? Most of the time instead of repenting which would be the best thing, we often blame others for our sin. Let’s look at what happened when Adam and Eve sinned?

Genesis 3:8-13 (ESV)

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. [9] But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” [10] And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” [11] He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” [12] The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” [13] Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

What did Adam do when confronted with his sin? Adam blamed God. What did Eve do when confronted with her sin? She blamed the serpent. This seems to be our practice as humans. Not much has changed. We tend to blame God or we blame the devil, rarely do we take responsibility ourselves.

That brings us to our passage.

James 1:13-16 (ESV)

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

[16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

1- The Problem (vs. 13)

The problem is simply stated by James.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

We have in this text the word tempted. We read some weeks ago a similar word in the original language that was translated trial. Both words come from the same Greek word. However in some cases the word is translated trial and in others it’s translated temptation. What makes the difference? What makes the difference is the context and the outcome.

Here, in the mind of James, we have good theology gone bad.

The good theology is that God is responsible for the event, circumstance, or situation. God has sent the trial. God has sent it for our good, from God’s perspective it is an opportunity to grow and mature. It is a chance to take a step toward Christ likeness. However, when we don’t take God at His word, when don’t believe God is sovereign, when we don’t trust God, when we don’t use the trial as means to grow, we turn this opportunity to grow into an occasion to sin.

Even in a wrong initial response we see the love of God: even if we begin to respond in the wrong way, God promises to provide a way to escape sin. When we have fallen into the pit of temptation God throws us a rope.

1 Cor. 10:13 (ESV)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James wanted to make sure his people new this truth. God wants us to learn the same truth.

With every trial comes a double possibility. If we respond correctly, God is honored and we are strengthened. If we respond inappropriately, God is dishonored and we drift into sin. One results in God being glorified, the other in our sinning.

In every trial there is an opportunity and a danger. As believers, when we begin to see this two-fold perspective that trials we have can begin to use them for our maturity. They become stepping stones to maturity rather than rocks that crush us.

The truth of the matter is that our culture has become very good at blaming others for sin. People blame God. I have heard people who practice homosexuality say, God made me this way. They’re saying in essence, it’s not my fault it is your fault God.

The lie from sin is we can’t help the way we are. This is the pinnacle of human depravity. Not only do we blame others, but in our sad state we go so far as to blame God. To the man who cannot stop drinking he has been led to believe it is hereditary or it is an illness. In either case he has been told it isn’t his fault, he is the victim. Here are some things we might catch ourselves saying to blame our sin on something or someone else.

My job is so stressful

I’m just tired

I had an abusive childhood

My parents always put me down, I have low self-esteem

Does God want us to sidestep our sin by trying to argue that we are victims? God wants us to grow up. See our sin for what it is and receive His forgiveness and healing. We are sidestepping the issue when we pass blame. We are not giving God the chance to give us forgiveness.

Christ is the only answer to our sin problem. His shed blood at Calvary paid our sin debt. Jesus took upon Himself our sin. The wrath of God was turned from us to Christ. See God still punishes every sin. Every sin sees the wrath of God. If you are a child of God today, your sin was punished at the cross. If your not a child of God you will be punished for your sin.

God has freed His children from the bondage of sin by the work of Christ on our behalf. Now as believers we have responsible choices to make.

The truth is we are responsible for every choice we make. We can be changed by the power of God working in us. The pattern of sin can be broken when we embrace Christ and turn from sin. When we see Christ as the all sufficient Savior and Lord we are on the right track to breaking the sin pattern.

There are some sins that we have committed and we continually commit. How can we break the chain of sin? Sin is a habit. We sin habitually. How do we stop? James knew the process that takes place in our hearts that leads to sin. If we can also understand the process, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can stop the chain. As believers we don’t have to sin. At every cross road we have a choice either honor God and grow or honor self and sin.

James goes further in the text to show us how the process works. I mean most of us don’t get up in the morning saying, I can’t wait to fall into the first temptation I encounter. So James gives us that process. He uses very graphic language to prove his point.

2- The Process (vs. 14-15)

[14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James uses the imagery of a harlot attracting a young man. It’s interesting; the Book of James has been called the Proverbs of the NT. The Book of Proverbs uses similar language in regard to sin when it compares the adulteress woman luring men to the process of temptation and sin.

According to James, sin has a five step plan to kill us.

The Examination of Sin’s Seduction

Step 1- The Mind is Lured Away (vs. 14)-

[14] But each person is tempted when he is lured

Rather than blaming God, James says we are to blame. It’s interesting that James no where even says that Satan is responsible; we even blame him at times. We are tempted when lured away by our fleshly desires. Our fleshly desires lie to us. They say things like: It’s just a little sin. God will forgive you. In a week or two you will have forgotten all about it. These are lies. Sin is a very serious thing and so are the consequences, many of which last a lifetime.

The first step is our minds are lured away. Our imaginations run wild. We actually contemplate the sin. We think about it and commit it in our minds.

What’s the answer to this? How has God provided a way of escape? I believe Paul gives a big clue in Philippians.

Philip. 4:4-8 (ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. [5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[8] Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

When we are beginning to be lured away by our flesh the way we keep from sinning is we change our thinking. We sever the chain through rejoicing in God through Christ, through prayer, and allowing God to guard our minds from the thoughts of sinning. We need to fill our minds with other things. Paul gives us a good list: whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Step 2- Our Desires are Enticed (vs. 14)

[14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

After we have entertained the thought of sin, it’s then we approach the door of the harlot. Our desires are entangled. Our flesh is now leading the way. We have given the control of our lives to our fallen and corrupt nature. Our mind has determined and our flesh is listening. Rarely do we turn back once we reach this stage. If we are going to win the battle over sin we must engage a God honoring decisive attitude before we ever get this far. Once our desires and affections are engaged in sin we are well on our way to destruction.

Step 3- Our Sinful Desire Conceives (vs 15)

[15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,

Our desire has entered to door of the harlot. As a result, sin is conceived. This is fostered by our culture. TV tells us untruths. It says things like you deserve this thing or that. You have a right to something. This is also the thought that some forbidden fruit will somehow meet a need that God has deprived you of.

Again we turn to Genesis.

Genesis 3:1-5 (ESV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” [2] And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, [3] but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” [4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. [5] For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The Serpent’s argument was God is depriving you of some pleasure. He is being very restrictive. Our flesh tells us the same thing. These are lies. Sin never ever gives the pleasure it promises. It never delivers what is says.

Step 4- The Birth of Sin in Our Lives

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,

Our lives are disrupted and in turmoil because sin has been born. There’s no turning back now. Now you are up all night rocking and feeding and cradling this bundle of misery.

There will forever be consequences for the choice you made. Our flesh says, God will forgive you which is true. But like Satan in the garden, that’s only half the story. Sin will always have with it dire consequences in this world and in the world to come.

Immediate Consequences- Future Consequences- Eternal Consequences-

Romans 14:10-12 (ESV)

…For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; [11] for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” [12] So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

When we were contemplating sin, we sort of forget that part don’t we. We have selective memory.

Step 5- Our Sinning Brings Death (vs 15)

and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Enslavement to sin brings spiritual death. If a person continues a lifestyle of sin, they show that their allegiance is not to God but to self or Satan. The truth is they are not Christians. They are not God’s children they are children of the Devil.

1 Cor. 6:9-11 (ESV)

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [10] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Much of our problem with temptation and sin lies in our misconceptions. With half-truths and lies we have hardened our hearts. We have not listened to our consciences. We have not listened to the Holy Spirit. We listen to our flesh, our own sinful desires.

We feel better about our sin when we practice building ourselves up and playing sin down. The reality however should shake us up.

Who have we really sinned against?

David knew this truth when he declared to God, Against You and You only have I sinned.

When we catch a vision of God and His holiness we must cry out with Isaiah, I am undone!!!

Or we realize like Job did, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.

Or how about when Habakkuk when he saw a vision of God’s power?

Habakkuk 3:16 (ESV)

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me…

The secret in putting to death sin is as Isaiah, Job, and Habakkuk learned, awe inspired worship.

Do you desire God more than you desire sin? Do we desire obedience even in the face of potential temptations?

James gives us a final warning. He loves us enough to tell the truth about sin and our fallen nature.

[16] Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

James tells us don’t blame others. Don’t blame Satan. Don’t blame someone else. Don’t blame your past. Most of all, don’t blame God.

We must accept the responsibility of our sins.

The good news is when we fall we have a sinless Savior and Lord. He knows us inside and out.

It’s as if James is saying the same thing John tells us:

1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. [2] He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. [3] And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. [4] Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, [5] but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: [6] whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The bottom line is we must fight against temptation. Take the opportunity to grow in the trial rather than fall in the temptation.

Be on guard fight against the Fatal Attraction of Sin.


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