Practical Christianity: Enduring Temptation | James 1:12-18
Andy Lindgren | June 10, 2018
Thank you, worship team. Good morning! Let’s go to the Lord in prayer. Father, we ask now that in the coming moments the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts would be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. In the name of Jesus we ask, Amen.
We’re going to be continuing in a series in the book of James this morning, and in today’s message we’re going to be looking at temptation, so, wisdom for enduring temptation. We’re going to be looking at James 1:12-18; I invite you to open your Bibles and read the word of the Lord along with me. James 1:12-18:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
This is God’s word.
We’re going to be looking at this passage in three different stages this morning. First we’re going to be looking the presence of temptation, then the pull of temptation, and then finally the path through temptation.
C.S. Lewis, in his classic book Mere Christianity, uses an illustration that he borrows from George MacDonald about us as Christians being a work in progress. In the illustration, he says many Christians, before they come to the Lord, there’s a sin in their lives that’s causing a lot of problems. It’s causing problems socially, it’s causing them emotional problems, and they need the sin to be taken care of, so they decide to come to the Lord, to become a Christian. So they do so, but after they become a Christian they realize that problems in their lives don’t go away. They still have money problems, they have relationship problems, they have physical (health) problems and suffering, and they wonder, “Well, why is this the case?”
So C.S. Lewis compares the Christian to a house. He says, basically, when we come to the Lord we’re like a dilapidated shack. We’re a mess, the roof’s caving in, there are leaks in the pipes, nothing’s working right. We realize there are problems with the house, so therefore we come to the Lord and we want him to fix the roof, fix the door, “just get everything how I want it to be. Fix this sin problem in my life and then I’ll be good, Lord.”
But the Lord doesn’t stop there. He starts knocking down walls and tearing up the landscaping and expanding and doing all of this work, and we feel that work in our lives in the form of trials. Things are just not going right, they’re not going as good as we think they should be for someone who’s doing the right thing, following the Lord. Things are not going as they should.
So C.S. Lewis says it’s the trials in our lives that are that construction project that’s causing all of this hassle to go on. Of course, what is God up to? We wanted him just to repair the shack we were living in, but he’s not content to stop there; he’s out to build a mansion in which he intends to come and live. So, there are trials in our lives, but the trials in themselves give the opportunity for temptation.
I. The Presence of Temptation
That brings us to the presence of temptation.
(1) The first thing we need to keep in mind is that we will encounter trials in life. I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that, but it’s important that Scripture does assert this. We’re going to encounter trials. James has already spoken of meeting trials of various kinds in verses 2 through 4. He didn’t say, “If we meet trials,” but “when,” taking it for granted that the trials would come. He wrote that it should be counted joy when we meet them because of the inherent opportunities trials give us to be matured in our faith, to have a godly character, to be conformed to the image of Christ.
(2) Now, here James returns to the theme of trials, but now he’s emphasizing the need to remain steadfast under them, because temptations come to us in our trials. In verse 12 he says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” So, trials endure, they yield life; but trials bring with them the opportunity for temptation to not stand the test.
We see this illustrated in many ways throughout Scripture. Just to hit a few, we looked a Job last week; Brian talked about the suffering of Job. Job went through a tremendous trial of personal loss, which led him to grief and suffering. Grief and suffering can tempt us to turn away from God in disbelief, and of course, if Job would have given into that temptation to turn away from God it would have meant an eternal loss far greater than anything that he lost during his trials.
Another example would be Moses, in this instance, of someone giving into temptation. Moses went through a trial of dealing with the sins of others, and he was tempted to respond to that in sinful anger, which he did. Numbers 20:11-12, “And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with the staff twice, and water came out abundantly. And the congregation drank, and their livestock. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’”
Moses gave into the temptation to respond to the sins of other people with sinful anger, with unrighteous anger.
The people that the letter of Hebrews was written to, that group of believers, they were a group of Jewish Christians who were in the midst of persecution and suffering, and they were being tempted to dial down the Christ-centered focus in their lives, to retreat to their previous form of faith, which was Judaism, worshipping God without the Jesus factor, because ratcheting up the Jesus factor brought a lot of persecution in their lives. So they were tempted there; the author of the letter of Hebrews entreats them again and again to not give in to that temptation, but to hold fast to Christ, and throughout Hebrews shows how Christ is worthy of worship, that he’s worth going through the persecution for.
And of course, the believers that James wrote to, they were tempted. They were going through socio-economic trials, and they were tempted to show favoritism among themselves. They were also tempted to use their tongues to hurt other brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we’re going to see in the coming weeks James addressing those issues.
So, we find in verse 12 that is to those who stand the test and remain steadfast that will receive God’s promised crown of life. So, we will all go through the fire in some way, shape, or form, and James, writing his own New Testament wisdom literature, his own New Testament version of proverbs, in a sense, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he’s laboring to show us how to wisely avoid the traps of temptation.
II. The Pull of Temptation
That brings us to the pull of temptation in verses 13 through 15.
(1) The first question he addresses is, who is to blame? In verse 13 James emphasizes that God is not the one responsible when we give into temptation. He writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
Now, while James doesn’t exclude demonic influence (later on he’ll stress the need to “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” so he definitely acknowledges that there is a tempter who tempts us and we need to resist him), here he’s focusing on our own culpability in our temptation. While the devil does incite us to evil, it’s our own corresponding desires that whisper, “Yes,” at his suggestions. So the difficult situations and the trials that God sovereignly ordains in our lives to build us into that bigger mansion where his able to come and live, those trials are not a license to sin. They aren’t a permission for us to sin.
Of course, we can be quite blind when we give into temptation, and we have a tendency to blame everyone but ourselves. We see this in Adam and Eve, the very first temptation give into; there’s this back and forth where they essentially - it’s a blame game. They’re blaming everyone else but themselves for what had happened, for what they chose to do.
(2) In verse 13 we also see that God is holy. God’s very nature excludes the possibility that he might be tempted. James writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
So, just as we read in the book of Hebrews that it’s impossible for God to lie, we also find another impossibility about God here, and that is that he would be himself tempted with evil. God is holy, and there is nothing in his nature that corresponds to our desire for evil.
If you’ve ever ready anything by Homer or Virgil and read about the myths of the Greek gods or the Roman gods, there were these gods that were remarkably human in their nature. They did things out of petty motives and they messed with people’s lives because they were tempted to do bad things and they followed through on that temptation. James is saying [that] God is not like that. He’s not like Zeus, that he would do things out of an impure motive like that.
(3) In verse 13 we also see that is distanced from evil. James says that “he himself tempts no one.” So, God is the author of our salvation in a way that he is not the author of our temptation. For instance in the Old Testament we find that God surrounded Israel with pagan nations to test their love for him, but they desire seized the opportunity to rebel against the Lord and they fell into sin. God wasn’t the one making the idols of the other nations look appealing and attractive to their hearts; it was their own desires that, when in the midst of the trial that God put them in, they reached out in sin and gave into that temptation. So, while God brings the outer trials in our lives, our desires bring the inner temptation.
However, this does raise the question, “How does this relate to God’s sovereignty?” Although Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign over all things, including, in a mysterious way, the sins of his people and those who are not his people as well, he is sovereign in such a way that people are still held accountable for their sins, not God.
We see this illustrated in the life of Judas. It’s extremely clear in the New Testament that God ordained the cross. The cross was planned from the foundation of the world. But the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus are chock-full of people giving into temptation. Jesus himself even said that Judas was lost, in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled; and the gospel writers tell us that Satan entered into him. If you stop there is sounds like, “Well, Judas didn’t really have a choice, did he? The cross needed to happen, someone needed to betray Jesus; Judas drew the short straw, somehow, in the mind of God, so we can’t say that Judas can’t blame God for giving into that temptation.”
However, the gospel writers also tell us that he did because he loved money. So, who was to blame for Judas giving into the temptation to betray the Lord of glory for mere money? It was Judas, and not God. He was the one culpable.
Another fascinating illustration of this is in Peter’s Pentecost sermon. He’s given this sermon on Pentecost; as a huge result, people come to the Lord. But in that sermon he tells the crowd gathered, “You killed the author of life by putting him to death on the cross! You’re the ones that did it! You need to repent of that!”
So they come forward and repent. But they wouldn’t be able to repent and be restored to grace if Jesus hadn’t died on the cross. He’s telling them that they need to repent for killing the author of life, even though it was his death that was necessary for them to be able to receive forgiveness of sins in the first place. That’s true, because God tempts no one. The blame is solely on us for our sins, and not God.
As D.A. Carson points out, “God does not behind good and evil in exactly the same way, but stands behind good and evil asymmetrically.” There’s not a symmetrical relationship. There is mystery here; this is a big topic that we don’t have time to go into further this morning. If you want more resources on that, D.A. Carson has a book called Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility that really looks at Scripture with that question in mind of how do these two things relate.
I think Augustine is on the right track when he says, “Men choose the darkness, but God divides up the darkness as he sees fit.” God ordains the trials in our lives, but we are culpable when we give into temptation, and God is not to blame.
(4) James, then, goes on talking about the pull of temptation in our lives in verse 14. He uses this fish and bait illustration. He writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” So, just as a fish is enticed by the attractive lure and finds itself dragged away, so we are enticed by the deceitful pleasures of sin and find ourselves trapped.
John Owen has a great wealth of writing, on indwelling sin, that offers some valuable insights on this portion of Scripture, and I’m just going to incorporate some of his observations.
One of the first things to realize is that temptation is the representation of a bad thing as a good thing, so it’s essentially a deceit, it’s a cover, it’s a trap. Think about it; if you fish, what you’re doing is you’re covering that deadly hook with a representation of food or satisfaction. So you’re telling the fish, “This is the good thing,” when really, underneath the good thing is a bad thing for the fish. The fish takes the bite because it thinks it’s going to eat and it wants to live and get another meal, but really what’s happening is its demise.
That’s what happens in temptation. The bad thing, death and sin, is covered up by the appearance of a good thing. Temptation covers up death with life, and that’s even seen in Satan’s interaction with Eve in the garden. Remember what he told her? He said, “You will not surely die.” That’s what we do to the fish. “You won’t surely die.” That whisper of, “You will not surely die,” ultimately lies behind every temptation, covering that hook with the lie.
We also find that our own desire is to blame. If we trace that fishing line of temptation to its source, ultimately we find that it’s our own hand that’s holding it. It’s our own desires.
Owen labors this again and again in his writings, that we have an enemy that lives within us, that’s always inside of us. He’s in the fort, so to speak. He can’t be locked out, because his home is on the inside. It’s in our hearts where indwelling sin lives, and it’s our own desire that does the enticing, which is why this enemy is so dangerous. Our desires can be very clever and covert, which is why we’re so likely to blame everyone else except for ourselves.
A human being, being made in the image of God, once twisted, once fallen, once affected by sin, it leaves all these tunnels and caverns for our sinful desires to hide and disguise themselves, holding out lines with hooks around every turn when we least suspect it. You see this illustrated in Scripture again and again. Owen uses the example of King David. Here’s the man after God’s own heart, who had offered these wonderful psalms through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we still use today, but where did this adultery and murder come from? Well, it was because David had indwelling sin inside of him; he wasn’t watchful enough, and he gave into his own desires.
The same can be said of Peter in the New Testament, when he wimps out with eating with that group of believers. He won’t eat with the Gentiles because he’s afraid of the opinion of man, and Paul has to confront him about it. Where did that come from? The same Peter who was filled powerfully with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Pentecost sermon! Well, that came from Peter’s indwelling sin.
(5) Then in verse 15 we find another metaphor that is a twisted parody of conception, birth, and life. James writes, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Here James is showing the scope and the damage caused by yielding to temptation. First of all, desire conceives. So, in this illustration, desire enters into a union with temptation, and desire conceives. So when we say yes to temptation, that moment when our will acquiesces, when we say okay to those thoughts that are being suggested to us by our flesh, something dark comes into existence. Sin comes into existence, desire is partnering with temptation, and the seed of sin is now sown, and so sin is born. So, sinful desire is pregnant, and it gives birth to sin. Our will agreed, and temptation has now produced sin, and then finally out of that the consequence, if not stopped, will be that death is born. Fully grown sin gives birth to death.
Paul writes in Romans 6:21, “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”
Owen also labors this in his writings, that the ultimate result of every sin, if not killed by repentance and faith, is death. That’s where every sin is leading; that’s the road every sin is going down. Because the ultimate aim of every sin, if it’s allowed to grow and mature and if it’s not stopped by repentance and faith, the ultimate aim of every sin is to dethrone God, which can only result in death. It’s an insane rebellion against the Creator and life-giver of the universe, and it will lead to death.
So, yielding to temptation populates our lives with the worst consequences imaginable. It’s spreading spiritual death throughout our lives.
In light of this, is it such a surprise that Jesus told us to watch and pray so that - what? We would not fall into temptation. In light of this, doesn’t it make sense that he would instruct us to pray daily not to be led into temptation, which he did when he gave us a model prayer?
III. The Path through Temptation
We have this tragic reality that mankind, designed for abundant life, through temptation willingly opens the door to death. We need hope, we need the path through temptation, and we see that in verses 16 through 18.
(1) In verse 18 James talks about the new birth. He writes, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” So James follows John and Peter here in describing God’s saving work as a new birth from above. In verse 18 when he says, “He brought us forth,” that’s the same Greek word he used of sin bringing death forth in verse 15, so he’s playing on these two images here. Sin brings forth death, but God brings forth spiritual life by causing us to be born again from above. He does this sovereignly as the author of the good in our lives. James says it’s of his own will he brings us forth; this is a work of God.
What are the means he uses to accomplish this? It’s by the word of truth. This word of truth, this phrase is used by Paul as well, and it seems to indicate the proclamation of the gospel, the good news concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s through this gospel, through this word of truth, that God brings us forth. He makes us the firstfruits of his creatures, so instead of our sinful desire filling this creation with death, God is filling creation with new life now through bringing us forth by the word of truth and making us the firstfruits of his creatures. God is reversing what our sin and temptation are doing to creation.
So, while we conspire with our flesh and the world and the devil to bring forth death, God acts to bring forth life. He regenerates us; he recreates us. Temptation covers [life with death], but God covers [death with life] because we have to go through the cross and die to ourselves in order to truly have life. Temptation says, “Do you want to live? Do this,” but ultimately we die. God says, “Do you want to live? You have to die. You have to die to yourselves and go through the cross.”
Maybe this morning you’re realizing that there’s a consistent pattern of giving into temptation in your life and it’s because you aren’t actually a Christian. You’ve never experienced the new birth, you’ve never been born again from above. If that’s you this morning, I just want to encourage you to place your trust in Christ today. It’s why he came to deliver us from our sins, and he can do that for you.
So, in the heart of a believer now grace has the dominion instead of sin. Paul writes about that in Romans 6, that either sin has dominion in your heart or grace does, and if you’re a believer, grace does. Now, even though sin is still present in our lives, its authority and its power in your life has been changed by that new birth that God has brought forth. There is also power available to fight temptation. It’s only available to those who have been born again.
In fact, we’re going to see later on in this series that James will write of the “implanted word which is able to save your souls.” So, the same word that saves us empowers us. God also gives us his Holy Spirit, and there’s much more that can be said on that topic.
(2) Going back to how James approaches the issue we’re going to look at verses 16 and 17, and we find that he encourages us to know the character of God, to know the attributes of God. He says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
So, James has already corrected misconceptions about the character of God, and he continues to do so. He says, “Do not be deceived.” Of course, unlike Adam and Eve, who listened to the lie that God was less than good and perfect and so yielded to temptation. Don’t be deceived. So, while we are responsible for the sin that brings forth death, he is the good Creator who is responsible for every good gift in our lives.
James touches on two of God’s attributes alone in verse 17. First of all is goodness. “Every good and every perfect gift is from...the Father of lights,” and then second his immutability, “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God is good, and he doesn’t change.
James uses an interesting title, that’s not found anywhere else in Scriptures, of God; he calls him “the Father of lights.” Most likely, what he meant here when he’s talking about lights are the sun, moon, and stars. So God is the personal Creator of all we see in the sky that dazzles us, and he’s the good and wise ruler of creation. He’s not simply an impersonal force behind them; he’s the Father of lights. He’s good. The beautiful and good changing lights of the sun, moon, and stars were created by a good God who does not change, a God whose promises we can trust. He’s not going to change, and he’s not going to break, and he’s not going to leave.
James is leaving his readers to contemplate the character of God in their fight against temptation. We need to ask ourselves, how well do we know the character of God? How well do we know the attributes of God?
One of my favorite pieces of advice I ever heard John Piper give someone, it was on his “Ask Pastor John” podcast, and this young man emailed in and said, “Pastor John, I need help. I’m a Christian, I read my Bible regularly, I’m seeking to grow in the Lord, but I am struggling with the temptation of pornography. I’ve read books about lust, I’m in Scriptures, and I just cannot beat this. Do you have any advice for me? Do you have any help?”
John Piper told him, “Buy a copy of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and read it cover to cover.” When I heard that I just thought, “Yes!” Of course, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is not the only one to read on that topic, at all; there are hundreds and hundreds of books that deal with doctrine and the character of God and his attributes and what not.
The point is that theology is the study of God, and diving deep into doctrine is a powerful resource for standing against temptation. Systematic Theology is quite a long book (it’s over a thousand pages), so a good starting point that I would like to recommend would be A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. I think we still actually have a copy in the little bookstore we have out here. That’s a great devotional meditation on the attributes of God and the character of God and how it relates to us.
The reason that’s important (and this, of course, presupposes being in Scripture regularly) is because what books like these do is they collect these various statements about God, these doctrinal truths throughout Scripture, and tie them together and show us the teachings of Scripture on particular topics; in these cases, on the character of God. So it’s so important to use doctrine to fight deceit in our lives. We use the correct doctrine about the Lord to fight the deceit of temptation, to uncover the death working beneath the false appearance of life.
(3) Third, as we consider this path through temptation, we need to look to Jesus, our tempted older brother. Jesus faced external temptation from Satan for us, but he never yielded internally. Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden and failed, but Jesus was tempted in the desert and he succeeded. He can help, Hebrews 2:18, “for because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He’s able to help!
This connects with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13. He said, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Jesus also understands. Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
I love what C.S. Lewis said about this. He wrote, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives into temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it, and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means, the only complete realist.”
Jesus also gives us mercy and grace. Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
In eternity, Jesus will forever bear the scars that are a sign of him resisting temptation to the end and never giving in, so let us hide in him when temptation comes. We have no greater companion in the universe to be with us in our temptations, no one who loves us more, no one who understands us better, and no one who has more ability to help us endure those temptations.
(4) We also have future hope and better promises. Jesus himself looked to the future when he was enduring tests and temptation. God offers us a much better future than sin can.
We see this illustrated with Jesus’s encounter with the devil in the wilderness. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stone into bread; Jesus didn’t yield, but later, God had Jesus multiply bread for the masses, and even later than that, Jesus himself became living bread for all of his people to feed on.
Satan tempted Jesus to jump from the high pinnacle to force God to show a visible sign of his Messiahship. Jesus resisted the temptation and did not give in, and later what happened? God gave a far greater physical sign of Jesus’s messianic identity by raising him up from the dead.
Satan tempted Jesus to bow down to him. He said, “If you bow down to me I will give you the kingdoms of the world to rule.” Jesus resisted that temptation, he did not give in, but later God gave Jesus a far greater universal rule and the ultimate crown of life when he was exalted to the Father’s right hand.
Jesus endured temptation and overcame for the joy that was set before him. His eyes were focused on something better. This is beautifully illustrated in Matthew 26:63-64, when Jesus was on trial. We read there, “And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”
Jesus immediately, when he said, “You have said so,” he knew there was no turning back at this point. What he was wrestling with so much in the garden of Gethsemane, what was making his sweat like drops of blood, this terrible thought of him bearing the wrath of God for sin, this was his last chance to get out of it. He could have said something different, but he didn’t. He said, “You have said so.” Then immediately, what does he do? He starts talking about the future. He says, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The 2004 film The Passion of the Christ captures this moment beautifully. It’s one of my favorite moments in any movie ever. After the high priest asks that question, there’s silence, there’s suspended silence, and everyone’s holding his breath to find out what he’s going to do. Jesus looks up and he answers and he says those words about seeing the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with a pained smile. It’s the last time you see him smile before he undergoes all of the suffering, and he has this far-off look in his eyes. Jesus looked to future because the promises of God deliver and the promises of temptation do not.
There’s also the promise of future life in verse 12. Last week we looked at verse 12 when considering enduring through trials, and James writes there, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
So, those who have been brought forth by the word of truth, those who endure, those who love God - all three of those are the same, talking about the same individual; it’s a Christian. The Christian has been brought forth by the word of truth, the Christian is ultimately one who endures to the end, the Christian is one who loves God because God has poured his love into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, as we read in Romans. They will receive the crown of life. God promises us eternal life if we are his.
Immortality, living forever, that would be miserable if we weren’t happy; but not only do we get the highest joy, which is God himself, but we also get the ability to enjoy him, and not only for a limited period of time, but forever. So, turn your thoughts and your hearts to the future of promised life for those who endure, for those who stand the test of temptation.
There’s also a promise of future purity, what’s talked about again and again in the New Testament. Just for example, we see it in 1 John 3:2-3. He writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
You have this interesting theme going on here. John’s saying, “We’re going to be pure in the future, we’re going to be perfect someday, when we stand before the Lord, when we’ve been set free from the indwelling corruption in our physical bodies, when we are glorified, we’re going to be pure.” So because of that we purify ourselves now. We purify ourselves as we anticipate our future purity.
We also have the promise of future bliss. Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We resist temptation and flee towards holiness, flee towards purity, because we want the unspeakable joy of seeing God. That’s the ultimate goal, to see God, to know him as he is, to worship him, and to glorify him forever. That’s worth resisting every temptation that comes our way, and it’s important to focus on that.
There was a man who had a terrible struggle with lust for years and years, and he said what set him free from it was this verse, that his longing to see God, to see God more clearly, and to ultimately see him on the last day gave him the grace he needed to conquer this habit of lust in his life through the power that gives to us and his grace.
So, let us trust in the greater promises of God, who is unchanging in his goodness, instead of the false promises that entice us in our temptations. Let us flee to Christ, whose wounds speak of the promise of the greater joy to be found in God than to be found by giving into temptation.
Lord, we are in awe when we look at your word and see all that you have done on our behalf, Lord. You’ve provided a way out of temptation to us, Lord, at the highest cost to yourself. Lord, we are so thankful for that, Lord, and we ask that you would help us to apply what we have seen in your word today to our lives, Lord, that we would conquer and endure temptation, Lord. You endured it on our behalf and you’ve given us the grace and the way to have that path through temptation for ourselves. In the name of Jesus we ask these things, Amen.