Lesson for October 11-17, 2014
If we’re going to perfect our faith, as James encourages us to do, there’s no better place to start than learning how to handle temptation.
Some of us may feel we aren’t tempted as much as others, simply because the temptations we see others struggle with are the kinds with observable effects and outcomes. But the truth is, we all have “under the table” temptations, sometimes even unknown to ourselves.
Therefore it’s important for all of us to polish up our temptation “armor” and wear it proudly so those temptations won’t actually lead to sin.
I like the analogy used in the Teacher’s Quarterly, which said that “God does not leave us as victims to drown in a sea of sin. He has provided lifeboats for all who are willing to use them.”
Knowing the story of the Titanic, let’s make sure we have enough lifeboats on board to get us to shore safely. I’m looking forward to being on the shore of that Sea of Glass in heaven (Revelation 15:2), aren’t you?
Key Text: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love them.” James 1:12 KJV
There goes James again. Sounding just like Jesus in one of the Beatitudes. But he brings out a vital point in this issue of enduring temptation. Most of us have noticed that the harder we focus on not sinning, the easier it is to sin. (Paul writes of his experience with that problem in Romans 7.)
But here in the key text, James expertly focuses our eyes on the prize, the crown of life. Could it be that temptations would be more easily diverted if we just kept our focus upward, in heaven where Jesus is?
The battle is very real, but let’s keep in mind that God is real too. And He is the one who gives us power to overcome.
Sunday: The Root of Temptation
I once had a friend who had quite a problem with God. She held Him responsible for all the suffering and pain that we experience on earth, because He created Lucifer in the first place. Most of us have known people who have this mental block of misunderstanding about the nature of God, and we also might find ourselves questioning the workings of God, when we are faced with crises of one form or another.
But James wisely refutes these claims of God being the source of evil and temptation. He says in James 1:13, 14…
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” NKJV
James doesn’t even let us use the old expression, “The devil made me do it.” He clearly states that the battle with temptation begins in our own minds. We choose to sin, and no one can force us to yield. See Romans 6:16-18, which talks about our choice in being slaves of sin or of righteousness. It totally depends on who we choose to worship.
This is not to say that the devil has no part in our temptation. He does his part by “drawing” us and “enticing” us, but he can’t actually force us to take the bait. Keep in mind that even Jesus was tempted, but He chose not to yield to Satan’s promptings.
These three verses will introduce us to tools for fighting temptation that we will explore in this lesson.
- Ephesians 6:17 “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” NKJV
- Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” NKJV
- Luke 4:8 “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ‘ “ NKJV
Discussion Questions: Why is it important to know the root cause of our temptation?
Is there a risk of feeling too guilty about the consequences of our past wrong choices, if we alone are to blame? What do you say to a person who is experiencing massive, paralyzing guilt?
How do we avoid being judgmental about the choices others make?
Monday: When Lust Conceives
Continuing in James, we read:
“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:15 NKJV
Evidently when we nurture and pet that tempting desire in our minds, the sin becomes conceived. This eventually leads to birth, or the act of sin. And of course, sin, unconfessed and unforgiven, leads eventually to death. This picture is paradoxical, in that the birth, in this case, does not lead to life, but to death.
How does one get pulled down to this level? We can go all the way back to Eve’s experience in the Garden of Eden. Satan brought the conflict in heaven to our earth by successfully enticing the first humans to sin. Read about Eve’s story and her steps in the sin process in Genesis 3:1-6.
We can see with Eve, there is danger when we begin to distrust God. Simply approaching the tree that God had specified that they stay away from indicated that she must have had some doubts in her mind already about what God had asked of them.
Satan then engaged her senses by his beautiful appearance in the form of the serpent. He always seems able to make our “forbidden fruit” look pleasing and desirable. This made her question God even further. By then, she could not resist the temptation and she proceeded with the act of sin itself.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 NKJV
Discussion Questions: Read Revelation 12:4, 7-9 and discuss the war in heaven as portrayed here. How does knowing that God retained 2/3 of the angels on His side encourage you in your struggles with sin, but also alert you to the powerful 1/3 host of angels that Satan employs against us?
Discuss these words of counsel: “The strongest temptation is no excuse for sin. However great the pressure brought to bear upon the soul, transgression is our own act. It is not in the power of earth or hell to compel any one to sin. The will must consent, the heart must yield, or passion cannot overbear reason, nor iniquity triumph over righteousness.” ~Ellen G. White, “Christian Privileges and Duties,” Signs of the Times, October 4, 1883. How can you use these concepts to empower someone, rather than discourage them?
In light of the above quote, how do we view the actions of persons who are not mentally equipped to handle Satan’s temptations? Consider those with dementia, brain injury, and mental illnesses of various kinds. Read Psalm 103: 13, 14 and discuss how God may judge these individuals? [If God knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30, 31), He must know how many functioning brain neurons we have in our brain! Right?]
Tuesday: Every Good and Perfect Gift
“Do not err [or ‘be deceived’], my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow or turning” James 1:16, 17 KJV
The phrase “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow or turning” indicates that the Light spoken of here doesn’t change positions like the shadows. The NIV says “who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Light is a familiar symbol of Christ. The writer of John mentions “the Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). And Jesus said He was “the light of the world.” He tells us that anyone”who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Indeed, God’s first act in creating our world was to declare, “Let there be light”. That was His very first gift to our world. So James reminds us here that every good gift, such as the gift of light, comes from God above, including the gospel light of salvation for mankind.
This salvation gift was part of God’s will even before our world was made. II Timothy 1:9 says:
“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,” NKJV
Peter, likewise, was on board with this new birth description being a gift that happens to us through God and His Word:
“having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,” I Peter 1:23 NKJV
We can see that James is not imbalanced when it comes to faith and works. His assessment of the salvation equation is consistent with Jesus, Peter, and Paul. We are not saved by our works; salvation is a gift. But when faith is alive and growing, works will be present, according to James. See James 2:17–without works, faith is dead.
Discussion Questions: We know that God gives us faith as a gift, leading to our salvation. Can our works be considered our gift to God? How do we safely think of it this way, if we can?
Describe the intimate relationship that God desires to have with us and how this affects our apparent gift-giving to each other. How do we avoid boasting about our works?
How necessary are our works in securing our salvation? How necessary are they for growing our relationship with God? …for furthering the kingdom of God?
Wednesday: Slow to Speak
Surely all of us wish we had been slow to speak more often. Our tongues get us in a lot of trouble. Taming our tongue will take up a whole week’s study later this quarter. But for now, we’ll focus on times when it’s better to listen than to speak.
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19, 20 NKJV
Other verses throughout the Bible support this text and should make us pay attention to James’ advice:
- “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 NKJV
- “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak. A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning. He awakens My ear to hear as the learned.” Isaiah 50:4 NKJV
- “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 NKJV
James and others are trying to encourage better listening and speaking skills between our fellowman. Problems, including anger, arise when we don’t listen to each other and are too quick to speak.
Discussion Questions: Consider our communication with God. Is it possible for us to be angry with God as well, when we fail to listen and speak to Him in a measured way?
Read Psalm 19:14–a familiar verse: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…”. Could this verse also be pointing to our communication with God, as much as or more than our communication with others? What words in the verse might indicate that application?
Colossians 4: talks about our speech being seasoned with salt. What exactly does the symbol of “salt” mean in this verse? How is it related to our speech?
Thursday: Saved by Receiving
James 1:21 really packs a lot of information, when it comes to knowing how to be saved. He says,
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” NKJV
- We must “lay aside” our faults. This includes removing one’s self from bad influences. In order to put on Christ’s white robe of righteousness, we must take off our own filthy rags. (Similar to what Joshua was told to do in vision. See Zechariah 3:3, 4.)
- Receive the word with meekness, implanting it in your heart.
Hence, we have a new individual, clothed within and out, with Christ’s righteousness. This is what the new birth is all about. This is all that salvation requires.
If you’re wondering what to replace your old habits (the outward man) and desires (the inward man) with, that’s easy. Replace them with Jesus, the Word.
Discussion Questions: What are our “filthy rags”? Are they just the bad things we do or say? See Isaiah 64:6. [they include anything we do to save ourselves]
Does “laying aside” our filthiness mean we have to be without sin in order to come to Jesus? And does it mean we lose our salvation if we fall back into sin? How often is this “laying aside” going to be necessary? [requires a moment-by-moment surrender and making the choice to give up our sinful ways]
What are some ways you have memorized Scripture, or heard about others doing it? What benefits do you see from this practice? What other ways are there to implant God’s Word? Does it have to be through memorization?
- God supplies us with all the tools we need for enduring temptation.
- Knowing the root of sin and evil and how it actually begins in our minds, helps us to identify and eliminate it.
- Although James points out the need for good works, he is also compatible with the gospel of grace, as preached by Jesus, Peter, and Paul.
- Being wise in our communications, with God and others, will help us fight temptation.
- By receiving and implanting God’s Word in our hearts, we can keep from sinning.
Do at least one of the following this week to increase your ability to endure temptation:
- Try to increase your Bible study/prayer time.
- Collect Bible verses that you find most helpful in your life.
- Explore the various ways of memorizing Scripture. What ways appeal to you? Start applying one of these methods this week to consistently implant God’s Word in your heart.
scripturetyper.com is an “app” that some have found helpful for memorizing or identifying valuable texts.
Next week: Being and Doing
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