Lesson Two – Christians’ Tendency to Lust

Christians’ Tendency to Lust

Text:      James 1:13-15.

A.    Introduction.

The task of reading a letter requires an active engagement of our minds from the “beginning to the end” of the document.  This is especially true in cases when we are not the original recipients.  The need for our attention is highly energized when our lives identify with the original recipients.  We, as Christians, stand where they stood at the time they received James’ letter.  He did not write to teach new doctrines.  He wrote about the common challenges of the daily lives of Christians.

Our study may be complicated in cases where the original recipients understood the issues James introduced more clearly than we do.  We need to think like he expected the recipients to think.  For instance, when James declared, “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me,” we need to ask questions like:

Why did James insert this thought right here in his letter?

We ask, was he aware of a specific situation or was he generalizing?

Was the problem specific to the culture of that time and place, or is it a weakness in mankind?

We cannot expect to find these answers in each block of scripture.  James was writing to Christians who possessed faith in several theologies, ethics and Christian practices; otherwise, he would not have started his letter with “faith testing.”  Please review “Reading James.” See item D entitled; “Doctrines mentioned by James he assumed the recipients understood.”

Since we must strive to follow the train of thought of the author we ask questions about the text under consideration:  “Was James still working with the testing of a Christian’s faith where the outcome is expected to develop patience?”  In cases where the trials of Christians had not produced patience, some may have cried “it is not fair!”  They may have questioned the source of the tribulation.  Some may have asked; “Does God tempt members of the church with evil?  James assured them, and us, God is not the source of unhealthy testing practices.  The Apostle Paul also gave this assurance to the members of the church of God in Corinth.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall!  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 provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.            I Cor. 10:12, 13

Most Christians will be quick to confess that all of our “faith testing” encounters did not produce patience.  In these cases where we did not “stand up under it,” (this is one meaning of the English word patience), we need to examine ourselves.  We need to know the source of the cause of our failure to let patience do its work in us.  We ask, “Is my failure to develop patience an inside or outside problem?  If the source of the problem is coming from outside, we may conclude some trials are evil in their very nature.  The function of the text for this lesson shows this would be an erroneous conclusion.  James explains why.

B.  Lesson.  The source of temptations.

We need to think about why James introduced this topic right here in his document.  How does it function?  Did the author change his train of thought?  If not, then how does this text relate to the foregoing and following thoughts?  Let us assume it relates to the trials (NIV), or temptations (KJV), in verses 2-4.  The Greek word, peirazo, has been translated temptations.  The same word has been used twice in Hebrews 2:18.  Jesus suffered when He was tempted in order to learn to help Christians when we are tempted.

Jesus did not sin, but Christians may sin when tempted.  James said God does not tempt anyone with evil things; however, God does use tempting or testing (peirazo) exercises for Christians.  The Hebrew writer said God tried, or tested (peirazo) Abraham (Heb. 11:17).  See other scriptures where peirazo has been translated “tempted.”  Matt. 4:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35; I Cor. 10:13; I Thess. 3:5.

Some recipients of James’ letter may have failed their “faith testing” exercise.  They may have been saying they were being tempted with evil (Jas. 1:13).  If this was the case, James may be trying to help them identify the real source of their failed “faith test.”  He assured the recipients the problem would not be with God’s program.  Testing of one’s faith will produce patience.  If it does not, the problem lies within the Christian and not in the procedure of the testing exercise.  This text functioned to help Christians “not be deceived” about the source of temptation (Jas. 1:16).

It has been said, “If we think the problem is out there, this is the more serious part of our problem.”  Today, some Christians may fail some of God’s tests.  We need to examine ourselves.  The source or strength of our faith could be inadequate.  We may need to check the focus of our hope with the scriptures.

James introduced another reason for the failure of our “faith tests.”  He warned us about our “tendency to lust.”  Christians are still “in Adam” even though we are “in Christ.”  I Cor. 15:47-49.  The tendency to lust will be present with us until our spirits leave our Adam type bodies; therefore, we must not make provisions for our lusts (Rom. 13:14).  We must keep this potentially overwhelming evil in a dormant stage.  The final answer to faithful Christians’ chronic problem “in Adam” is immortality.  See Rom. 2:7, 10.  Note how immortality in verse seven is replaced with peace in verse ten.  We will struggle with the task of choosing good over evil until we receive our new bodies (I John 3:2).  The following “do’s and don’ts” will aggravate and may activate our chronic problem of the tendency to lust because of living in our bodies like Adam (I Cor. 15:22).

  1. Making provisions for our lust.  Jas. 1:14.
  2. Failing to put on Christ.  Rom. 13:14.
  3. Adopting a religion developed by the wisdom of the world.  Col. 2:20-23.
  4. Attempting to attain sanctification under a law like the Law of Moses.  Rom. 7:7-10.
  5. Failing to keep a “tight rein” on our tongues.  Jas. 1:26; 3:6

With the foregoing thoughts in mind, we should have no problem reading the text with the same understanding James expected the Christians who received his letter to read.  How did he expect them to understand his message?  Please consider the following:

Verse 13.  “When tempted.”  Please note James did not say if, but when (II Tim. 3:12).  God’s program to develop sons of God requires “faith testing.”  Heb. 12:8.  Peter has given us many examples in his first letter under the heading of “submit.”  See I Pet. 2:14, 20, 21; 3:1, 7, 9.  The purpose of this testing is to make sure our faith is “genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  I Pet. 1:7.  God has created in each human being a need for praise, glory and honor.  These are needs of our eternal “self.”  They are good and healthy desires; however, our program for satisfaction must include life after death.  Christians have an, “inexpressible and glorious joy” about our hope to have these innate needs satisfied (I Pet. 1:8, 9; Jas. 1:2).  These desires are in accordance with God’s will (Jas. 1:12).  This is our faith and we want to know it is genuine before Jesus comes for us.  Thus we understand God uses good testing programs.  They produce patience if everything is right within us (Rom. 5:3-5).  The subject of healthy innate urges will be fully discussed in the next lesson in our study of Jas. 1:16-18.

Verse 14.  God has “input” into mankind’s lives because He created us in His likeness (Jas. 3:9).  Jesus has given us the truth about how and why God created us (John 14:6; Jas. 3:17, 18).  Jesus’ laws of life offer a program for our innate needs that will integrate the power we derive from achieving satisfaction – or a hope of (Rom. 13:14).  This is how patience does its work in Christians so they “may be mature and complete.”  Jas. 1:4.  The devil was able to attain “input” into human lives because Adam and Eve broke covenant.  They became aware of good and evil (Gen. 3:22; Rom. 5:12).  All people need to learn what is good and what is evil about the satisfaction for our God-given needs.  The devil offers many programs to satisfy our inherent needs; however, “there is no truth in him.”  John 8:44.  His programs may temporarily satisfy one need but thwart several others.  Or, he may offer ways that do not achieve satisfaction.

All people will try to arrive at some level of satisfaction for our innate needs.  Jesus offers truth to attain satisfaction for the way God created mankind.  Satan offers all the other way.  The “other ways” drag people away from the light of life Jesus has provided.  Satan’s lies become his tools to drag Christians away from truth.  The “trying and trying” of untruthful or forbidden ways to attain satisfaction is identified as lust in people.  Lust has been translated from the Greek word, epithumia.  It means a longing for what is forbidden.  Lust cannot be satisfied.  James added “and enticed” to the condition of Christians who have been dragged away.  The Greek word is deleazo and it means to entrap, beguile, allure.

Verse 15.  “When lust hath conceived.”  Conceived has been translated from the Greek word, sullambano.  It means to seize or clasp.  In other words, A Christian has been “clasped” in a cycle of lawlessness.  They have not attained satisfaction for their needs; however, in their frustration, they keep trying and failing.  This is sin.  Sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4).  They can be brought back if they can repent (Jas. 5:19, 20; Heb. 6:4-6).   If they do not repent sin will finish its work in them.  Spiritual death is sins work (I Cor. 15:56).  Death means they were dragged away from the grace and truth in Christ.

Jesus’ blood, and faith in its cleansing power, can save the man in the world from sin and death; however, it requires the teachings about why and how God created us to develop these same people as sons and daughters of God (Acts 4:12; II Cor. 6:18).  This is what Peter called “growing up into salvation.”  I Pet. 2:2.  A Christian cannot grow up into salvation unless he or she has attained the hope of satisfaction for “praise, glory and honor.”  Of course, we have other needs while in our physical bodies such as sex, food, clothing and shelter.  Jesus offers a complete program for these needs also (Matt. 6:32; I Cor. 7:9).  James will get into the problem of seeking satisfaction for our innate needs in James 4:1-4.

C.  Some thought questions about the foregoing text:

  1. What is the relationship, if any, between the thought in verses 2-4 and 13-15?
  2. Why might some be saying they were tempted with evil by God?
  3. Please read Genesis 3:22 and I Cor. 15:45-49.  What do we have as a part of our mental faculties because Adam and Eve sinned?  Why do all mature people sin?  See Rom. 5:12-14.
  4. When Christians’ temptations give birth to sin; what is the root of the problem?
  5. What are the two elements that could mate and give birth to sin in a Christian?
  6. Going beyond the definition of “death as separation from God,” how does death manifest itself after sin is “full-grown?”   Read James 1:21 and Mark 7:20-23.

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