Series on James, I Woes, B The Promise in Perseverance, Text:1:12-18, Title: Don’t Be Deceived - NEW


We have seen in the opening verses of this letter a Jewish author who believes in Jesus reach out to his own suffering people. His first concern is to address the persecution and suffering which they are undergoing. His initial advice is that they need to gain the right perspective. no matter what the suffering the truly rich man is the man who trusts in God. This is summed up in verses 9-11. Now a new question arises. Why is God tempting us so grievously? James' answer is blunt and to the point. He isn't. God is trying you, proving you, teaching you, helping you to grow stronger, but He is not tempting you. Now the Greek word for temptation and the Greek word for trial is the same word. So what it means is a matter of context. Here James would clearly say God is trying us in all these troubles and miseries, but these very same experiences can also be temptations and when viewed as temptations they do not come from God, but they come from the world the flesh and the devil. This is exactly what James is arguing here and he does it by contrasting three things. There is a contrast in character, a contrast in conception and a contrast in consequences.

I A Contrast in Character

The first contrast is in verses 12 and 13, Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Two kinds of character are before us here. God who cannot be tempted and each one of us who can.  Our character is further described in verse 14 as evil. Evil desires come out of the heart or the inner man, as Jesus said in Matthew 15:17-20, Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean. We are born into the world sinners and we live as sinners. This sin nature is radical, that is, at the very root of everything about us. Our mind or intellect, emotions and will are all set against God and utterly depraved without the slightest trace of good at the source. That is why it is a constant battle, and we must run the race with patience. Men do public and recognizable good things, but these do not proceed out of a pure heart, but are motivated by self-righteousness. By contrast James sets forth God's character. In him there is no sin. In fact James says he never moves from that stance. In verse 17 James says that God casts no moving shadow when he turns because he never turns. His holiness is inviolable. His purity is unassailable. His righteousness cannot be compared to anything in all creation. Even the heavenly bodies move and change but not God. All of this contrast in character has but one aim; to enforce the plain declaration that God does not tempt us. God tries us, but our evil nature is the source of temptation. We all need to hear this even though we may have heard it before or even know it well, because it is typical of our fallen nature that in our minds we begin to accuse God and think he is responsible for our failures. The trials He sends are sent in love and are sent to help us grow stronger through obedience. We are the ones who turn them into occasions of evil.

II A Contrast in Conception

There are two conceptions presented to us here in this text in verses 14-18, But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 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. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. First, James traces the conception of sin. it starts with one being dragged away by his own evil desire. Secondly that desire conceives, and thirdly it gives birth to sin, and when full grown it gives birth to death. It might help to look at our sinful nature or evil heart as the mother of sin. The evil desire or lust which enters our thought processes is like the seed. When it finds a reception or a home, there is an unholy marriage and it conceives. The evil desire finds an assent or a willingness to go further. This is the process of conception and that as you know leads to birth, but what is born here is sin and in the end death. Thomas a Kempis described the process in this way, “First comes to mind a simple thought, then a strong imagination, afterwards delight and an evil movement and assent.” Over against this sinful conception verse 18 says that God has chosen to give us birth, new birth that is, through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all that He created. Notice he did this of his own will. There is nothing in the creature whatsoever to elicit this response of mercy. God regenerated us because Christ died for us and merited that spiritual birth. The emphasis is on the goodness of God. Far be it from the Lord to tempt us. He has nothing to do with the conception of sin; rather He gives birth to new life. The seed is his holy Word, and the effect is that we are the first born of all creation. That is, creation is under a curse which will one day be removed through Christ, but in regenerating us God has already removed the curse from us, and he has begun that work of renewing the world. He has everything to do with life and blessing and nothing to do with the production of sin. Thus we have reinforced for us what James has already plainly stated. Good comes from God sin comes from us, and we do well to understand sin’s development because we cannot blame God for it.

III A Contrast in Consequences.

We have already seen that we are the firstfruits of the new heavens and earth wherein righteousness dwells, but in verse 12 James specifically stated the consequence of God's saving work in us. It has enabled us to endure trials without being tempted to sin or deny our lord, and to persevere through our trials on earth brings us the crown of life. This is the fullness of life. Life unhindered by sin and reproach. Contrasted with that is death. Sin brings forth death. This is death in all the breadth and meaning of that dread word. It brings fulness of death; spiritual death, eternal death, and condemnation. Thus we have here the two destinies of man. The fullness of life which is the portion of those that love God, and the fullness of death that is the inevitable doom of those who persistently hate God and continue in sin. James is asking his readers to make a choice here. This choice is offered to suffering mankind. Will you call your trials temptations and blame God, or will you recognize the sinful lost condition in which you came into the world. It is we who make our trials into temptations. The world, the flesh and the devil are all the source of temptation, and in the end, the reason temptation finds a place in us is because of our sinful hearts. We must realize not only that we are evil, but that God is good and merciful, rich in mercy, and plenteous in forgiveness. We can either endure in obedience or give into the falsehood that we can't do anything about it because it's God's fault. James has made a cogent argument for us to blame ourselves.