In Medicine, the more that is known about how a disease is contracted, the better prepared one is to avoid it.
In Security, the more one understands how the employees or customers steal, the more prepared the company is to prevent it.
In Military, the more one understands how his enemy will attack, the better prepared the military will be to resist such an attack.
Likewise, spiritually the more we understand how our adversary the devil tempts us, the more prepared we will be to resist sin.
1. James 1:14: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”
What leads to sin? First, one has certain lust(s) or desire(s) within the mind [The word “lust” in the original language can be used of good and wholesome desires (Luke 22:15; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:7). However, it is very commonly used of evil and wrongful desires.] The means of temptation is through our desires. Think about this: Is there anything wrong with the desire for food? Or physical intimacy? No! But such must be regulated by the word of God.
Second, we are enticed. The word “entice” in the original language means ‘to bait, to lure by bait.’ Think of a fish-hook with a juicy worm on the end wiggling around before the fish. The devil takes our desires and dangles them before us trying to get us to satisfy these desires in a way which is contrary to God’s will.
Third, the lure draws us, as a baited hook does a fish. Please note that to be tempted is not sin (Heb. 4:15), as we sing “yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.” Though, we may have certain desires, we must recognize the hook of sin and avoid grabbing hold. In fact, we’d do well to run from it (2 Timothy 2:22; Genesis 39:12)
The points I want you to remember are: (1) Satan does not make us do something. He lures us. (2) Satan can use even good and natural desires to bait us. Many times God has made available a legitimate way for us to fulfill those desires. Satan tries to get us to fulfill our desires in a different way, a way which is contrary to God’s will.
2. James 1:15: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
The imagery changes a bit from the previous verse.
This concerns conception and birth.
First, it starts with lust(s) or desire(s) becoming implanted in you. The desire may be universally sinful, or it may be that you are not authorized to receive this desire in the way you seek it.
Second, if that lust (desire) is allowed to grow it will give birth to sin. It is extremely important that we guard our minds (Proverbs 4:23; Mark 12:30; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8).
Third, the end result is (spiritual) death. Just like the fish which has been hooked!
3. 1 John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
The word “world” can refer to: (1) The universe – the Kosmos, the Greeks so used. (Roy Lanier Jr. cites John 17:24 for this usage); (2) The earth (Romans 1:8; 1 John 3:17); (3) By metonymy: The human race which inhabits this ordered sphere (1 John 2:2; Matthew 5:14); (4) The gentiles as distinguished from the Jews (Vine’s cites Romans 11:17); (5) The sum of temporal possessions (Matthew 16:26; 1 Corinthians 7:31); (6) The evil which dominates this world (John 15:18-19; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:8; James 1:27; James 4:4; 1 John 4:5; 1 John 5:19). I do believe that this last usage is in usage here [though, it is possible to love this material world too much. See 2 Timothy 3:4b; Romans 1:25; Luke 8:14; Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:2].
The “things of the world” means do not love anything that may be included in the term “world”. It is a movement from the general to the specific.
Now, let’s consider the three areas of temptation. First, there is the lust of the flesh (that is: fleshly needs, desires, and appetites). Roy Deaver has written, “The natural desires of the human body are not inherently sinful. They are God-given. God has provided for their satisfaction. These desires can be satisfied in the right way, or they can be satisfied in a wrong way” (Romans, p. 201). Robert Taylor Jr. adds, “Bodily appetites are not wrong per se. But they are to be fulfilled legitimately. We hunger for food, air, sexual release, security, etc. There are wrong ways to obtain such; there are right ways to obtain such” (Studies in Romans, p. 114). Kerry Duke has also said, “Since we dwell in a physical body, we are dependent upon the world. We must breathe, eat, and sleep to survive… even more significant is that those drives are involuntary, having been instilled by the Creator… Man’s craving for food is an inherent drive. Wish though he may that this did not exist, man cannot escape the need for food. But though the desire itself is not of man’s choosing, his response to it is. In fact, how man handles physical hunger is indicative of whether he exercises a basic Christian virtue: temperance or self-control” (God at a Distance, p. 87). Again, he writes of man’s sexual drive, “The feelings themselves may be involuntary and spontaneous, but to experience a feeling is one thing; how one responds to it is a different matter” (ibid, p. 95). “…It is important to remember that although dealing with the intensity of the sexual drive is a major struggle of life, fulfilling this desire is not a necessity of life” (ibid, p. 98). And to the married he said, “For the Christian, the sexual drive is not so much an enemy to be conquered as a force to be channeled” (ibid, p. 91).
Second, there is the lust of the eyes (that is: temptation comes through our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell). The eyes are an avenue for temptation to come our way (2 Samuel 11:2; Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 23:31). The ears are another avenue (Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 6:20-24; Proverbs 7:4-5). Smell may also lead to temptation (Proverbs 7:17; possibly Genesis 25:29-30). We need to be careful what we allow to come into our minds by these avenues (Job 31:1; Proverbs 23:31; Matthew 5:29; 2 Peter 2:14).
Third, there is the pride (vain-glory) of life. Most of us like to be liked. We want to have the comforts of this life. We want to receive the praise of men. We must decide whose praise is most important to us. In John 12:42-43 there were some who believed in Jesus, but they would not confess Him, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”. Our aim needs to be to please God (over man). [Read 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9 NKJV]. Let us accept the truth that if we truly are what we should be, not all will speak well of us (Luke 6:26). Some have erred from the faith for the things of life (1 Timothy 6:9-10; Luke 8:14; 2 Timothy 4:10). False teachers some times play upon our desire to be admired (Jude 16).
Beware of how temptation comes to you. Tempting situations you can avoid, avoid. Those things which are unavoidable (natural, physical desires of the flesh) understand how such can be used to tempt you and be vigilant (1 Peter 5:8).