Thursday, July 21, 2016
(I gave this message at First Christian Church Wilton Manors on July 10, 2016)
This morning I want to look with you at the first seven verses of 2 Timothy 2, a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, a young pastor. Paul had a special relationship with Timothy. He was more than a mentor. In verse two of chapter one, Paul referred to Timothy as "my beloved child." Elsewhere, he called Timothy a "fellow worker." (Romans 16:21) and wrote that Timothy served with him in Gospel ministry "like a child serving his father."
Timothy had been a missionary companion of Paul during most of his second and third missionary journeys. These were difficult days for the church at large. Paul spoke of his suffering for the gospel, as he was "bound with chains as a criminal." (2:9 ESV) You see, this was the last letter Paul ever wrote as his ministry came to a close. Written from a prison cell in Rome, shortly before he was executed by the Roman Emperor Nero.
And so Paul writes in the concluding chapter "...the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (4:6b, 7 ESV) Paul writes words of instruction and encouragement to this young pastor Timothy as he faced the challenges of living the Christian life and serving the church in difficult days.
As Timothy faced persecution Paul wrote in chapter one verse eight, "...do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner." Then as Timothy faced false teaching from within the church, Paul exhorted Timothy in verse 13, "What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teacing..." and verse 14, "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you..." That is the context of this letter.
I need not remind you of the increasing hostiility of our government and culture at large towards the gospel of Jesus Christ and His church, nor of the danger of false teaching in the church. So Paul's words instruct and encourage us as we live the Christian life and "fight the good fight" to use Paul's words.
We begin at verse one of 2 Timothy chapter two. Notice first of all Paul calls Timothy to a life of dependence, verse one, "You then, my child, be strengthened [or empowered] by the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (ESV) Pauls begins with the best new possible. God has not left us to fight the battle on our own. As we live the Christin life on a very personal level and as we fulfil the ministry God has called us to, here's the good news, it does not depend on our own strength! As Bradley Jones points out, Timothy is "...to be made strong by depending on the empowering Christ whose grace is unlimited."
"Be strengthened" verse one, is a present passive. That means two things. In the passive voice the subject is the recipient of the action of the verb. Paul is saying, Timothy is the recipient of the empowerment. In other words, it's not what you do, it's what the grace of Jesus Christ does for you and through you. So Paul is saying, let the grace of Jesus Christ empower you. Let Jesus Christ live his life through you! You see, both the source of the strength and the means of obtaining the strength do not depend on Timothy but on the grace of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, the verb “be strengthened” is in the present tense. That speaks of continuous action. Paul is saying to Timothy allow yourself to be strengthened over and over and over again.
Did you notice the the second word of verse one “you then"? It is often translated “therefore.” It links what he is about to write with what he has just written. So this is the idea. He is challenging Timothy to “be strengthened” as we have just seen, based on what he has already written in chapter one.
Look at chapter one verse seven, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (NIV) Then notice verses eight throug ten,
"So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life —not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. You see we endure suffering by the power of God."
Just as we have been saved by the grace of God, we are called to a holy life by the grace given us in Jesus Christ before the beginning of time. In other words, our salvation and our life of ministry are birthed and and sustained by the grace of God.
Dr. A. B. Simpson founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance put it this way,
"A precious secret of Christian life is to have Jesus dwelling within and conquering things that we never could over-come. It is the only secret of power in your life and mine. Men cannot understand it, nor will the world believe it, but it is true that God will come and dwell within us, and be the power and the purity and the victory and the joy of our life." (Days of Heaven upon Earth)
The first step of course, is coming to God for salvation. Have you repented of your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ for His forgiveness and salvation? That is where life in Christ begins. If not, this morning I urge you to turn from your sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life.
Now Paul continues in verses two throu seven by presenting four metaphors, that of a teacher, a soldier, an athlete and a farmer, that challenge us as we fight the good fight in a life of ministry.
Notice with me first of all, the life of a teacher. Paul calls Timothy, to what I call a life of continuity, verse two, "what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
Look back over two thousand years and think about how we today have had the opportunity to hear the truth of the gospel. What made that possible? Simply this, someone faithfully and accurately passed down to us the truth of the gospel, that someone had passed down to them
It’s called continuity. Merriam-Webster defines continuity as, “uninterrupted connection, succession, or union." You see, thousands, even millions, have preceded us in a long chain of believers that have passed down what they received from someone before them. For some of us it was our parents who faithfully taught us the gospel they had learned from someone before them, in many cases their parents.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics you might remember how both the U.S. women and men’s 4 by 100 relay teams failed to make it past the first round of competition. In each of those races the baton was dropped in one of the handoffs between two runners. For the United States, who usually dominate that event, it was an unprecedented failure.
The present generation and future generations depend on you and I being faithful in teaching others what we have heard so that they can teach others who in turn can teach others. We who are believers today are evidence that the continuity Paul spoke of has workded! Thank God for that uninterrupted succession of witnesses to the gospel.
Moses applies this truth, to the family, the home in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
A life of ministry begins in the home. We are to disciple our children! Applying Biblical truth to everyday living at home, at work, and in every situation of life. What are you passing on to your children and grandchildren? If you are a father or mother or a grandparent you have a responsibility to maintain the continuity of the gospel in your home, in your marriage to your children and grandchildren. Reaching the next generation who will in turn reach their generation who in turn will reach their generation. And of course this principle of continuity applies to the discipling of leaders, as well as believers in the church today.
Secondly, Paul uses the metaphor of a soldier. He calls Timothy to a life of dedication. Notice verses three and four, "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him."
In 1 Timothy 1:18 Paul encouraged Timothy to “fight the good fight” (NIV) or “wage the good warfare” (ESV). Notice three implications about the Christian life and ministry from the metaphor of a soldier. First of all, this ought to be obvious, we are at war! That is what soldiers are trained for. That is what they do! That’s their business. Without an enemy there would be no need of soldiers.
This is the consistent witness of Scripture. Going back to the very beginning. After God exposed the sin of Adam and Eve and the deception of Satan, He said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15 ESV)
This is known as the first gospel, the first announcement of the coming Savior - the Messiah. It set the stage for the epoch struggle between good and evil, between God’s children and Satan and his forces that has raged from the beginning of human history since the Fall.
Friends, when you follow Christ and choose to live for Him, you are stepping onto a battle field. You have moved up to the front line. You’ve entered a war zone. If you think otherwise, you have been misled and have put yourself in a very vulnerable place.
In several other places Paul not only uses the metaphor of warfare to describe the nature of Christian life and ministry, but he defines the ministry of the church as spiritual warfare. Let me give you a few examples.
Do you want to know what you are up against when trying to reach lost people with the Gospel? 2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV), …the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
We have, however, been equipped to face these strategies of Satan, 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 (ESV), "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
In Ephesians six, verses ten through thirteen, the definitive passage on spiritual warfare, Paul writes, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." (ESV)
If you are a Christian living for God you are positioned on the front lines of that spiritual war.
Secondly as a soldier you should be prepared for a life of hardship and suffering, verse three, "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." The word translated "share suffering" (ESV) or “endure hardship” (NIV) in verse three (ESV) (synkakopatheson), is made up of three words, kakos = bad + patheo = suffer + syn = together. Hardship and suffering are part of a soldier's life. That's part of going to war.
During the Gulf War, we saw video images of soldiers sleeping out in the open in raging sand storms or in tent like structures. You've read reports of soldiers fighting for days on end with little or no sleep. You've seen the images of the wounded and the dead.
This is what characterizes the life of a soldier, danger, sacrifice, deprivation, hardship and inconvenience. Paul himself lived a life of hardship/suffering. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (NIV) he wrote,
"I have worked much harder, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." (NIV)
You might not be called to that degree of suffering, or experience exactly that kind of danger. The hardship you suffer might be different than what I suffer. But the history of the church illustrates this Biblical truth. The Christian life and ministry involves sacrifice, hardship and suffering. The prosperity gospel that has saturated cable television and proliferated across this land is a false gospel. It’s unbiblical, unethical and comes from the world of make believe. It has led millions into false expectations and perhaps even a false salvation, a false security even the presumption of faith.
Well, how are you going to stay the course? You’re in a war, facing hardship and suffering.
Thirdly Paul says, the life of a soldier is a focused life, verse four, "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits [affairs], since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." (ESV)
Notice the focus of the soldier, the concentration. The imagery here is of one who is willing to exclude certain things in life for a greater cause -- to please the one in charge. Civilian affairs or pursuits are merely "the affairs of everyday life” as one translation reads (NASB). There is nothing wrong with civilian affairs. But to a soldier they can become a liability. Here’s the point. A soldier must be willing to give up certain things that can distract him from carrying out his responsibilities as a soldier.
Shortly after joining the Navy, the new recruit asked his officer for a pass so he could attend a wedding. The officer gave him the pass, but informed the young man he would have to be back on base by 7pm Sunday. “You don’t understand, sir” said the recruit, “I’m in the wedding.” “No, you don’t understand,” the officer shot back, “You’re in the Navy!”
Paul calls us to maintain the continuity of the faith. To a life of dedication like a soldier. And thirdly, to live a life of obedience. Paul now turns to the metaphor of an athlete. Verse five, "Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he compete according to the rules.' (NIV)
Literally (Marshall’s interlinear) “if anyone wrestles”. The verb here is "athleo" from which we get our word athletics; “to strive, contend, be a champion” Is the meaning. It’s referring to athletic competition. Paul is comparing the Christian life and ministry to the life of an athlete.
Notice first of all the discipline and desire required of an athlete. When I think of athletics the first thing that comes mind is the discipline required to be successful. And right alongside discipline is desire. Paul points out that athletes compete to win the prize or crown. In other words, even if it’s just a pick up game of basketball on an outdoor court, you play to win! And those who are involved in organized competition know the discipline required to prepare for competition.
I lived in Gainesville for 16 years. One of the benefits of living in Gainesville was the athletics. Two of my favorite sports to watch were track and field and swimming. The University of Florida excelled in both. Over thirty years ago, a UF student from Great Britain by the name of Chris Snode was training in Gainesville for the 1980 Olympics. Here was his training schedule. At 6 am, for two and a half hours, he had diving practice. After classes, early in the afternoon he went to weight training and then to Florida Field to run up and down the stadium steps. Then, from 2 to 5 pm there were three more hours of diving practice. That’s discipline motivated by desire!
Athletics was one of Paul’s favorite metaphors of the Christian life. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (ESV)
Secondly, Paul says an athlete must compete according to the rules. Every sport I know of has a very specific set of rules that govern the competition. Back in 1996, I was watching the U.S. Olympic trials held in Indianapolis. One of the women swimmers was competing in the 400 meter medley. In that event the swimmer swims 100 meters in four different strokes, the butterfly, breast stroke, backstroke and freestyle. After winning the event she was stunned when she was informed that she had been disqualified because she had made an improper turn during the race.
At the 2012 London Olympics an Algerian middle distance runner was expelled from the Olympics because early in the 800 meter run he just stopped running! He had failed to provide a “bona-fide effort” required of athletes in Olympic competition. It was reported that the Algerian team had forgot to pull his name from the 800 meter heat in an attempt to save him for the 1500 meter run. He was later re-admitted and won the gold in the final of the1500 meter race.
How seriously do you take your Christian faith and your Christian ministry? John MacArthur has said, “Discipline is the mark of maturity.” The disciplined athlete makes right choices, prepares carefully for the game, turns away from anything that will hurt their competitive edge, that will dissipate their strength, or will disqualify them from the competition.
Paul calls us to a life of continuity as a teacher; a life of dedication, like a soldier; a life of obedience and discipline like an athlete.
Lastly, Paul calls Timothy to a life of hard work verse six. "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." (ESV) Paul turns to the metaphor of a farmer. The key word here is “hard-working.” The A&B lexicon says it is to “become weary, tired". It means to “work hard, toil, strive, struggle.” This is what characterizes the life of a farmer especially in Paul’s day. There was no mechanized farm machinery, no modern pesticides or fertilizers. There was the frost to fight. At times too much water. At other times too little water. Insects and the weeds to deal with. It was back breaking labor. But of course there was a reward, the harvest of a crop.
Listen to Paul’s own testimony, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth here is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." (ESV)
Friends, that is our expectation as well if we follow his example and fight the good fight. I close with this illustration to encourage you. Never underestimate how God can use you, or the part you play in His plan.
It all started with a Sunday School teacher by the name of Mr. Kimball, who in 1858 led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Christ. The shoe clerk, Dwight L Moody, became an evangelist. While in England in 1879, he awakened evangelistic zeal in the heart of Frederick B. Meyer, a pastor of a small church. F. B. Meyer, while preaching on an American college campus, led a student named J. Wilbur Chapman to the Lord. Wilbur Chapman, engaged in YMCA work, employed a former baseball player Billy Sunday to do evangelistic work. Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, N.C. A group of local men were so enthusiastic afterwards that they planned another evangelistic campaign and brought Mordecai Hamm to town to preach. During Hamm’s revival, a young man named Billy Graham heard the gospel and yielded his life to Christ. You know the rest of the story.
God will use you, in your home, your church, your community. And it will all be possible because of His grace as you fight the good fight.
© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved
Saturday, April 30, 2016
The Anatomy of Temptation - Understanding and Overcoming Temptation - An Exposition of James 1:13-18
(I gave this message on April 24, 2016 at Miramar Evangelical Free Church in Miramar Florida. You may watch a YouTube video of this message given at First Baptist Church Oakland Park Florida on May 25, 2014 HERE)
When I was five years old I had my tonsils removed. One reason the surgeon was successful in removing my tonsils was that his medical training included a course in human anatomy. He studied the human body, the various parts that make up the human body, the function of those parts and their location. Therefore, he was successful in removing my tonsils rather than my kidneys.
James is giving us an anatomy lesson in verses 13-18 of chapter one. It is the anatomy of temptation, particularly the process that takes us from temptation to sin. Please know from the outset that temptation itself is not sin. But James gives us the anatomy of temptation so that we can understand what takes place when we allow temptation to lead us into sin.
Note the greater context of this passage. James spoke about trials in the first part of the chapter. We looked at this last when I was here six weeks ago. James says we should expect trails. James tells us that trials are of great value to the believer. If we respond to trials in the right way they lead us to spiritual maturity.
What is the connection between trials and temptation? Remember six weeks ago I suggested that every time we face a trial we come to a fork in the road. We have two choices. We can either seek the Lord or we can turn away from the Lord. Here is the connection. With every trial there comes an opportunity to either prove God's faithfulness or yield to temptation as we go our own way.
What are your circumstances this morning? Are you facing a trial? Then you are probably facing temptation. Perhaps your trial is a temptation, a besetting sin or other area where you are struggling. James identifies the process we go through when we allow temptation to lead us into sin. In other words, when we yield or give in to temptation. It's a four-step process, verses 13-15. I want to look closely at that process with you this morning. Then we will look at three ways to overcome temptation, in verses 16-18. Notice first of all, the four-step process from temptation to sin.
Right up front, James sets the record straight with this disclaimer. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." In other words, James says, "Don't play the blame game with God!" God is not the source of temptation. He may allow the temptation but He is not the source of the temptation. James tells us that temptation begins with our own evil desires. That is step one in the anatomy of temptation verse 14, step one, evil desire (lust), "but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." Temptation begins within us, what is within the human heart. In other words, in step one James identifies the role our evil desires play in this process. The word translated "desire" or "lust" (NASB, KJV) is a morally neutral word. The context determines its use, therefore the New International Version translates it "evil desire."
Now, we all have desires. We cannot live without certain basis desires. I assume most of you, if not all of you, have had something to drink in the last 24 hours. Probably all of you have had something to eat in the last 24 hours. Presumably all of you have slept in the last 24 hours. You get the idea. Our desires serve a purpose. Our thirst leads us to drink. Our hunger leads us to eat. When we feel tired we take a nap or go to bed.
But if these desires master us, instead of serving us, then thirst can lead to drunkenness, hunger to gluttony, being tired to laziness. James says that the process from temptation to sin begins with our own evil desires. Jesus described the human heart this way, "...For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. These evils come from inside and make a man unclean." (Mark 7:21) This is the universal condition of every human heart. The Bible is clear that we are born with an evil heart. So here's the first principle: Principle number one, temptation is possible because of the evil desires within us.
James is saying, there would be no temptation if our desires did not provide a point of contact for the temptation thus creating the opportunity for a response. In other words, if I don't have a desire for something, I can't be tempted by it!
When I was a young boy living in Japan, one day my mother served us oyster stew for lunch. My first sip of broth was my last. My Mom said, "Sit there till you eat it." I sat at the lunch table for hours that day but never ate another bite. I have never had a desire for oysters since. You cannot tempt me with oysters! If you don't have a desire for something you cannot be tempted by it! Temptation begins with the evil desires within us.
The second step in the process from temptation to sin is deception, verse 14b, "but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." There is always something in a temptation that will appeal to some desire within us. Verse 14 says he is tempted when "he is carried away and enticed" (NASB) "drawn away and enticed" (KJV) "dragged away and enticed" (NIV) by his own lust or evil desire. ESV "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."
James uses two metaphors here, one from the world of hunting and one from the world of fishing. Let's look at the first word, "dragged away," drawn away" or "carried away." It comes from the world of hunting. It's also translated "to lure forth." It's like baiting a trap. A hunter uses bait to entice the animal to the trap.
Those who trap African ring tailed monkeys to put in zoos, say they are one of the difficult animas to catch alive. The Zulu tribes people, however, have little difficulty. Knowing of the monkey's love for the seeds of a certain melon that grows on vines they simply cut a small hole in the side of one of those melons. The ring tailed monkeys come and inserts their paws into the melon through the hole grabbing a handful of the prized seeds. The problem is, when the monkey clenches his fist holding on to the seeds, he cannot remove his hand from the melon and is easily caught alive. You see, the monkey is trapped by his desire for the seeds.
James says that is exactly what is involved in this process from temptation to sin. The temptation appeals to something that we desire, and when we go for it, our desires become a trap. We are trapped by our own evil desire and give in to the temptation.
Then James uses a second metaphor, "but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." The word "enticed" is literally "to bait a hook." It is from the world of fishing. Our kids learned to fish in Lake Welleby behind our house. Success at fishing depends in part on knowing what bait to use. Sarah learned to start with catching the small minnows along the shore with a net. The tiny minnows were then placed on a very small hook to catch the shiners. Then the shiners were put on a larger hook and they went after the bass. "Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires." (NLT)
Notice that bait always does two things. First of all, it always appeals to our desires. Fish don't bite on a bare hook. It's the worm on the hook that attracts the fish. Bait always appeals to something we desire. Secondly, bait always hides the truth. In other words it always deceives. An animal would never approach a trap if it knew the true purpose of the bait. If it knew its life was in jeopardy. The bait hides the consequences of yielding to the temptation. Principle number two, there is deception in every temptation. Therefore our evil desires drag and entice us to go after the bait hidden in the temptation.
In 2 Samuel chapter 11 we read that David was on the roof of his palace from where he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. He evidently desired what he saw. What he saw appealed to an evil desire within his heart. And being the king he sent for her and committed adultery with her. What he saw with his eyes appealed to the illicit sexual desires within his own heart and he fell into sin. Remember, if you do not desire something you cannot be tempted by it.
In the process that brings us from temptation to sin, the first step is desire. The second is deception. The third is disobedience verse 15, "then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin." Evil desire left unchecked will lead to disobedience. James changes the metaphors to that of the birth process. Everything being equal, nine months after conception, a mother gives birth to a child. This third step, involves the will. It's when we make a decision. We decide to take the bait. We decide to give in to the enticement. We choose to disobey.
Principle number three, when we yield to temptation, we take the bait. Remember temptation appeals to our desires but it hides the truth. In the process of temptation to sin, this is the step when we choose to take the bait, and that decision results in sin. Therefore, this is the pivotal step in the process. This step involves an act of the will. A choice is made. Remember in this process of temptation to sin we always have a choice.
This is the step in that process where we have the opportunity to say no! In this anatomy of temptation, the first step involves the emotions, our desire; the second step involves the intellect, we’re deceived; the third step involves the will, we take the bait, we choose to disobey. This is followed by the final and fourth step, "and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" verse 15. This is the theme of the Bible from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation. Sin results in death. When sin is "finished" (KJV), "accomplished" (NASB), or "full grown" (NIV), it gives birth to death.
James continues the metaphor of the birth process. Once a baby is born, if you feed it, care for it, it will grow up. Inevitably when sin grows up it produces something. It produces death. When you yield to temptation, inevitably something takes place. Principle number four, yielding to temptation always has a consequence.
When you yield to temptation you might not die, but when you yield to temptation there will always be a consequence and often, it will affect others as well as yourself. Sin always gives birth to judgment. Romans 6:23, "for the wages of sin is death."
Back to David and Bathsheba. David sees a beautiful woman taking a bath. First came the desire, an illicit sexual desire for another man's wife, then the deception. David felt the satisfaction he would gain in that act of adultery was more valuable than anything else at that moment. After all, David had the power, he was the king; and the opportunity, her husband was away at war. The risk was minimal, so he thought. David was deceived. So step three, in an act of disobedience, he grabbed the bait. He then faced the consequences. If you read the twelfth chapter, of 2 Samuel, and the chapters that follow, chapters 13, 14 and 15, it's a horrible series of events that takes place. Bathsheba conceives and gives birth to a son, but he dies in infancy. Later, one of David's daughters Tamar is raped by her half brother Amnon. Then two years later, Solomon, the full brother of Tamar, in revenge, kills his half brother Amnon who had raped his sister.
Then you read of the horrible rebellion of Absalom against David, where he tries to take the throne from his own father, and it ends in another tragedy, as Absalom looses his own life. Did David pay a price for his sin? You bet he did! Were others around him affected by his sin. You bet they were.
Is there a consequence for our sin? You bet there is. When you're tempted to open up the internet, and go to that site you have no business being on; when you're tempted to watch that film or television program that appeals to the wrong kind of desires within you; when you're tempted to begin or continue that relationship with someone that you know is not consistent with God's will; when in your business you feel there is something to be gained from a little deception, being a little misleading in what you are saying about a product or service. James is saying, our evil desires will lure us away, drag us away and deceive us. The bait of temptation will always offer us something we desire, but it will also deceive us into overlooking the inevitable consequence of our sin. Giving in to temptation might not kill you but for every temptation you give into you will pay a consequence.
This is the anatomy of temptation, the process that leads from temptation to sin, desire, deception, disobedience and death.
Secondly, James gives us three ways to overcome temptation in verses 15-18. James gives us three ways to resist temptation. First of all, look ahead to God's judgment verse 15, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." We have already looked at this truth. When faced with a temptation, we must get our eyes,
off of the "bait" and look ahead to the consequences of taking the bait. This should act as a deterrent to giving in to temptation.
Remember that the very nature of temptation is that it deceives. The bait covers the truth, and the bait hides the consequences. Galatians 6:7-8. Notice the warning against deception that prefaces Paul's words. "Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."
James gives us three ways to overcome temptation. First look ahead to God's judgment. Secondly, acknowledge God's goodness, verses16 and 17. Again, notice the warning against deception, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
James emphasizes the true character and purpose of God. He says four things about God. First, God gives good gifts. But, not only does He give good gifts, the way he gives gifts is good. Literally it is, "every giving good." You can give a gift, but diminish the gift by how you give it. When you are invited to a birthday party, what is the unwritten expectation with the invitation? You feel obligated to bring a gift. Perhaps you want to go to the party, but don't really want to spring for the gift. In contrast, James says not only does God give good gifts, but the way he gives them is good.
Thirdly, James says God gives gifts continuously, over and over and over again. And lastly, God never changes. Why is this so important? When we go through trials; when we face difficult challenges; when we face temptation; Satan wants us to doubt the goodness of God! Here's the danger. If we doubt God' goodness we are vulnerable to temptation.
Back to David, chapter twelve. David did not remember the goodness of God when he gave in to the temptation and committed adultery with Bathsheba. After the affair, David had a visit from the prophet Nathan. The prophet told David the story of a poor man who had been mistreated by a rich man. The rich man had many sheep and cattle. The poor man had only one ewe lamb. It grew up with him and his children. The poor man shared his food with the lamb. The ewe lamb drank from his cup and slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him said Nathan.
When a traveler came to visit the rich man, the rich man took the poor man's ewe lamb killed it, cooked it and served it to his guest. When David heard the story he was incensed, because of the injustice, exclaiming that the rich man deserved to die. 2 Samuel 12:7-9, "Then Nathan said to David, 'You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been to little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? "
David had forgotten the goodness of God! He was deceived by the temptation of his own evil desires and grabbed the bait, with no regard for the goodness of God past, present and or future! There is a sense in which when we face a temptation and give in to our evil desires we are repudiating the goodness of God!
Jesus clearly identified what sin has to offer. Speaking of our enemy, He said, John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;" That is what sin has to offer us! Contrast that with what Jesus offers, "I have come that they may have life and have it have it to the full." New American Standard Bible, "might have it more abundantly", New Living Translation, "my purpose is to give life in all its fullness." That is what Jesus Christ offers, abundant life! Jesus is unmasking the deceitfulness of sin in that passage. What Christ offers is true lasting joy, true living, true fulfillment and true satisfaction. When we yield to the temptation seeking satisfaction by gratifying our evil desires, by seeking fulfillment in sin, we are saying in that moment, Jesus Christ does not satisfy! We are saying there is something better than what He offers. There is a sense in which we are rejecting the goodness of God. Pastor Warren Wiersbe, "God's gifts are always better than Satan's bargains. Satan never gives any gifts, because you end up paying for them dearly."
James gives us three ways to resist temptation. Look ahead to God's Judgment. There will be a consequence for our disobedience. Acknowledge God's goodness and thirdly, depend on God's Resources, verse 18, "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created."
There are three things Jesus does for us. First of all, Jesus understands our weakness, Hebrews 4:15-16. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Jesus understands! Every time we are tempted He understands. He is familiar with our weakness. He understands the tendency of our heart. We need to remember this when we are facing the temptation of sin. He is there for us, not in our sin, but to deliver us from our sin.
Secondly, Jesus gives us the power and the promises to overcome temptation. Peter put it this way, 2 Peter 1:3-4, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in his divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire."
Here is what James is saying. When we face temptation, our sufficiency is not in ourselves but in Jesus Christ. This is the consistent message of the Bible. Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 5:16, "So I say, walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature." Philippians 2:12-13, "Continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you," New Living Translation, "giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him." That is what James is saying in verse 18, "he chose to give us birth through the word of truth." He is speaking of the new birth experience. This is the fountainhead of overcoming temptation. It illustrates, it conveys the clear teaching, that we face temptation not in our own strength, but as Peter says, we participate in the divine nature.
God's Holy Spirit resides in the heart of every believer, and as we yield to that Spirit, as we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a power against sin that the un-believer knows nothing of. What a blessing. Jesus died on the cross and shed his blood - to cover our sin, not just to save us from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin. This is the clear and explicit teaching of the New Testament, that Christ is sufficient for us in the face of temptation!
The promise we are all familiar with. 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Jesus is our way out! The reason we can escape is not because we are strong but because He is strong on our behalf, when we put our trust in Him. May I suggest to you, that most of us are living below God's provision for us as we face temptation.
If you are here this morning and are not a believer; that is, you have never been born again, your life transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, this is what Christ offers you. Call out to Him in repentance and by faith receive His forgiveness. He will transform your life!
Thirdly, Jesus forgives and restores. 1 John 1:9, "If we confess out sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." That is God's promise to you and I. Never let the failures of your past, hang over you, and in and of themselves become a trial or temptation. When we repent of our sin no matter what we have done, yes, even adultery and murder, the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover our sin, and our sin is no longer held against us.
Many believe that Psalm 51 was written by David as he recovered from his sin with Bathsheba. Listen to David's cry. "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my inequity and cleanse me from my sin." (verse 2).
Several years ago, a pastor up state fell into sin. For a year and a half he had been in an adulterous relationship with his administrative assistant. When confronted by those in spiritual authority over him he refused to repent. In fact he left his wife and family, and moved in with his lover. Unlike this pastor, David valued his relationship with God more than his sin. When confronted with his sin, he knew the grace of God awaited him and he humbled himself before God and sought His forgiveness.
That's one reason I believe God called him a man after His own heart. But there was another reason. Psalm 51 also records these words, "Create a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast heart within me." Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me." Did David recognize what he had lost through his sin with Bathsheba? You bet he did! Many years before, after being anointed king, but before he became king, David lived as a hunted man in the wilderness running for his life as King Saul and his army pursued him. It is believed that during those years he wrote Psalm 63. Listen to these words birthed in the midst of those life threatening difficult and trying circumstances. They reveal David's heart for his God.
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me" (Psalm 63:1-8)
In his sin David had lost something he valued more than any pleasure or satisfaction sin could offer him, his fellowship with God. He longed for that fellowship to be restored. There was only one road that could lead him to what he had lost, repentance and forgiveness. David evidently knew in some measure what the Apostle Paul wrote about hundreds of years later, 2 Corinthians 7:10, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret."
Friends, when Jesus forgives, He restores what can only be restored through repentance, knowing His presence, something David had learned was of far greater value than anything sin had to offer. Jesus' word to us this morning, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Literally I will rest you. In other words, Jesus himself is the rest. He continues, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28,29 NIV)
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